When the 3A state football tournament kicked off on Nov. 7, there were many boosters in the White Mountains who predicted Show Low and Blue Ridge would eventually meet in the title game.
At the time that seemed to be an unusual prognostication, primarily because Wickenburg, Fountain Hills and Estrella Foothills fielded region championship and state-ranked teams that seemed to be loaded with talent.
The thought that Show Low would advance to the finale seemed especially peculiar because the Cougars had only a 2-3 regular season region record and advanced to state with a lowly No. 12 seed.
In a regular season-ending game Oct. 30 in Payson, Show Low trailed the Longhorns 17-14 at halftime and had PHS held onto the lead, the Cougars would have not made it into the tournament.
But lo and behold, those who picked Show Low and undefeated Blue Ridge to play in the big show, were on target.
The two region rivals, who’s campuses are located only a few miles apart, lock horns at 5 p.m. Nov. 28 in Walkup Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff for the state crown.
Show Low advanced to the finale with a 31-7 semifinal victory Nov. 21 over a Fountain Hills team that had earned the tournament’s No. 1 seed and had beaten the Cougars during the regular season.
Blue Ridge, a team that lost a double-overtime thriller to Payson in last season’s state title game, soundly thumped Florence, 53-6, to reach the game for the gold ball.
One of the reasons fans might have predicted the Cougars and Jackets would reach the finals is because 3A East Region, the home of small town Arizona football, has long had a reputation of being the most competitive in the state.
Inside the region, BR and SL have had a heated and often contentious rivalry since SLHS opened in the late 1970s.
Which means, only one thing is a given when the Cougars and the Yellow Jackets clash on Saturday — the state title will remain in the East.