For the first time in the past 21 years, the East region will not have a representative in the Class 3A state championship football game.
A 40-38 loss Nov. 22 to the Coolidge Bears eliminated East regular season runner-up Snowflake. The Lobos, who entered the tournament with a No. 1 seed, were the East’s final hope for a berth in the gold medal showdown.
With the win over Snowflake, the Bears (11-1) advance to the state championship Nov. 30 at Tempe McClintock High School. Coolidge’s opponent, the Globe Tigers, earned a berth in the finale by whipping Winslow 35-0, Friday, Nov. 22.
Globe entered the tournament as a No. 3 seed and Coolidge was No. 4. Both teams are members of the South region.
A trio of the East seeds in the state tournament, Payson, Show Low and Blue Ridge were eliminated in the first and quarterfinals rounds.
Due to a controversial power point system that was instituted two years ago, a unique situation unfolded in the play-offs.
East rival Blue Ridge ousted Payson in the first round and Snowflake ended Show Low’s title hopes in the second.
Under the old tournament playoff system of cross seeding regions against one another, the scenario of two regional rivals meeting early in the tournament would not have occurred.
The last time a 3A state championship game was played without an East team was in 1983 when Coolidge whipped Mohave 6-0 for the title. In the past 17 years, the East region has won 16 state football championships. Ironically, the only non-East team to win the crown in that span is Payson. In 1998, when the Longhorns won the state title, Payson was a member of the now-defunct Central region.
In the Class 2A state championship, the St. Johns Redskins a team Payson beat 20-16 early in the season will battle Northwest Community Christian for the title.