The Show Low vs. Blue Ridge football game on Oct. 22 could be one of the most emotional games, both on the field and in the stands, that will be played this season.
It’s because the tension between the two East Region schools, and the football-crazed residents of the two towns, appears to be reaching a fever pitch due to accusations of recruiting violations and old-fashioned small town rivalry.
It all began last summer when Show Low athletic director Nathan Richardson told Arizona Interscholastic officials he had information that a Blue Ridge coach — who ironically formerly coached at SLHS — had recruited Jordan Morgan — last year’s 2A Player of the Year at Valley Christian.
At a Sept. 16 AIA meeting, the board heard the accusations and ruled Morgan had not been recruited and was eligible to play for BRHS.
Until the hearing, Yellow Jacket coach Paul Moro had held Morgan out, probably fearing possible forfeitures if he played and was found to have been recruited.
Most bizarre about the situation is that just prior to the AIA meeting that cleared Morgan, Richardson self-reported that SLHS was the school that had recruited the former Valley Christian star.
How bizarre is that?
Allegedly, the recruiting was done by the Show Low school board president who was friends with Morgan’s father, Bill, also a former Cougar coach.
Morgan led Show Low to the 1999 state championship before taking over at Valley Christian.
The case of Show Low possibly recruiting the younger Morgan will be heard during an Oct. 18 AIA board meeting — just four days before the big Jackets vs. Cougar showdown.
Adding more drama to the volatile situation is that Bill Morgan and his wife Carla filed a lawsuit four years ago against Show Low High School and the district regarding the wrongful death of their 18-year-old daughter Mishell Marie Morgan who died March 12, 2005.
The suit was settled out of court.
In Show Low, those who have knowledge of the death are tight-lipped about the events surrounding the tragedy. Even some of those I formerly knew well and worked alongside during my years at SLHS refuse to discuss the matter.
The annual Show Low vs. Blue Ridge game is traditionally a hyped-up rivalry clash that has residents in both towns frothing at the mouth.