For the first time in the history of 3A conference football, teams will be seeded into the season-ending state tournament by power rankings based on the strength of their schedules.
Last year, the Arizona Interscholastic Association mandated a power-ranking system be used in 3A that is very similar to the one long used by 4A schools.
At the conclusion of the regular season, the top four finishers from each of the conferences' four geographical regions North, South, East and West will receive berths into the state tournament.
In previous years, two regions would be paired against others in the first-round brackets. For example, East played West and North took on South.
Those teams unlucky enough to be paired against the East powers usually were eliminated in the first two rounds, which made the state semifinals and finals all-East showdowns.
The region that was paired against the traditionally weak North, usually was assured of sending three, and possibly four teams, into the second round.
With a power system now in place, the AIA will power-rank the teams into the brackets rather than pairing regions against one another. That means two East teams could play one another in the first round.
There are some in coaching circles who quietly question the AIA's motives for implementing the power-ranking system, saying it was instituted to put a halt to the East's state reign. But, until a state showdown has been played, it's impossible to predict what effect the new rule will have.
When putting together nonregion schedules, athletic directors and coaches will be looking for the best competition available. A strong showing against a topnotch team will bode well in the power-ranking system, rather than a lambasting of a weak sister.