With the first two rounds of the 2009 AIA 3A state football championship tournament in the record books, two gridiron particulars turn glaringly obvious.
First, the East Region again reigns supreme with a pair of teams, Show Low and Blue Ridge, in the final four.
Second, the West Region was as weak as some players, coaches and fans suspected all season long.
The West’s ineptness turned evident Nov. 7 in the opening round when region champion Wickenburg, a team that posted a glowing 6-0 region record, 10-1 overall, was manhandled by the South’s Florence Gophers 40-13.
Wickenburg entered the tournament with a lofty No. 3 power points seed and Florence slid in 14th among the 16 teams to make the postseason.
Further evidence that the West was far from being a powerhouse surfaced again in the first round when Estrella Foothills, the region runner-up at 5-1 and 9-2, was ambushed 34-10 by Show Low.
Estrella was awarded a No. 5 seed and Show Low took a 12th seed into the postseason.
Following Estrella’s loss, legendary coach Rich Hoyt — who has strong ties to Payson dating back to the late 1970s when he was head coach at Williams — announced his retirement.
The West’s third team in the tournament, Chino Valley, a No. 8 power points seed, was upset, 43-17 by No. 9 Snowflake of the East.
Parker, the West’s fourth-place finisher, took a 58-0 smack on the chin from East champion Blue Ridge.
With three games remaining in the tournament, No. 1 Fountain Hills will play Show Low 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at Paradise Valley High School.
That semifinal clash will be preceded at 4 p.m., also at PVHS, by a final four match up pitting Florence, the surprise team of the tournament, against state title favorite Blue Ridge.
The 3A championship will be decided at 5 p.m. Nov. 28 in the Walkup Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
For now, the Payson Longhorns are the defending state champions, but that will end in two weeks with the crowning of the new champs.
Following that, players, including those from Payson, will turn their attention to individual accomplishments and the announcing of the all-region, all-state and all-state teams.