The Show Low Cougar football team — a longtime Payson High arch rival that the Longhorns play on Sept. 23 — will open the season Aug. 20 in the 6th Annual Sollenberger Classic to be played in the University of Phoenix Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals.
For the game, which kicks off at 3 p.m., the Cougars — winners of last year’s state championship, defeating Blue Ridge 20-17 in the season finale — will take on the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NAIA) 3A state runner-up Moapa Valley High School.
Last season, under coach Randy Ricedorff, the Cougars finished 12-1, losing only a midseason game to Blue Ridge.
Moapa Valley was 7-5 last season under coach Brent Lewis, losing the championship game to Truckee.
Lewis told Sollenberger officials that his players were looking forward to taking on Show Low and were excited about playing in the home of the Cardinals.
In the second game of the Classic doubleheader, Arizona’s 5A Division I state champion, Chaparral High School will meet Nevada’s 4A state champion, Bishop Gorman.
Chaparral has won two 5A state championships, as has Bishop Gorman in Nevada. Bishop Gorman is widely acclaimed as one of the finest teams in the country.
The two games will mark just the second time the Classic has been played in the Cardinals’ home stadium.
Several previous Classic games were played in Northern Arizona University’s Skydome, but months ago, NAU officials stunned the AIA, telling them the dome would not be available for the game. That notice had AIA officials scrambling to find an appropriate venue for the Classic games to be played.
In the nick of time, the Cardinals came riding to the rescue to offer the use of the University of Phoenix stadium.
“The Arizona Cardinals are pleased to be hosting the Sollenberger Classic,” team president Michael Bidwell wrote in a press release.
The Classic is played each year in memory of Barry Sollenberger, a 1964 graduate of Arcadia High School, who for decades diligently compiled information and statistics on Arizona high school athletes in most every sport.
He is being hailed as the journalist and historian who has done the most to preserve the history of Arizona high school athletics.
He began publishing “Phoenix Metro Football Magazine” in 1970 and continued to do so until his untimely death seven years ago.
Since 2006, the Barry Sollenberger Classic has been played as a season-opening football contest for one of — and this year two — the Arizona high school championship teams to take on out-of-state competition.