Upsets were nowhere to be found in the first round of the Division IV “State” football tournament when it kicked off Nov. 4 at eight sites around Arizona.
As expected, the favorites advanced to second-round play on Nov. 12, with No. 1 seeded Blue Ridge romping 54-14 over Coolidge; No. 2 Snowflake, behind former PHS football player Chase Walden, demolishing Window Rock 56-7; and No. 3 Show Low rolling over Mingus, 49-6.
Those game results further enhanced the now defunct 3A East’s reputation as the most competitive football region in the state. All three teams are former members of the East who annually battled one another in state finals after rolling over lesser teams in the tournament’s early rounds
That scenario could unfold this year with Show Low and Snowflake possibly meeting in the Nov. 19 semifinals and the winner playing Blue Ridge in the championship showdown on Nov. 26.
Next up in the quarterfinals, Blue Ridge plays No. 8 Buckeye at Paradise Valley and at North Canyon High, Snowflake takes on No. 7 Florence and Show Low plays, No. 11 Empire.
Another outcome of state first-round games concerned the less than stellar showings turned in by the northern Arizona reservation teams.
No. 10 Monument Valley was soundly thrashed by Florence, 74-14; No. 12 Chinle absorbed a 72-18 beating from Seton Catholic; and Window Rock lost by 49 points to Snowflake.
When the state pairings were announced more than a week ago, there were grumblings and groans from D-IV coaches, including Payson’s Byron Quinlan, that the northern Arizona teams, formerly members of the 3A North region, had advanced mostly because they played weak schedules.
Including those teams in the tournament meant some schools, including Payson, that had played more demanding schedules were excluded from the state tournament.
The former North region, where basketball reigns supreme as the No. 1 sport and football is often an afterthought, had four teams seeded into the tournament and all were eliminated in the first round.