Blue Ridge Makes Home Finale A Challenge

MORE THAN A GAME

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The most successful high school football program in state history is coming to town tonight.

With 14, Lakeside Blue Ridge has won more state championships than any other school.

And head coach Paul Moro is the reason for much of that success.

In his 30 seasons as head coach, the Yellow Jackets are 313-52. He ranks second in Arizona state history for high school football wins. Vern Friedli’s Tucson Amphitheater, Morenci, Casa Grande and San Manuel teams went 331-158-3 (.673) before he retired following the 2011 season. Moro’s .858 winning percentage is easily the best among the five winningest coaches in state history.

Moro’s teams have won 12 state titles. Blue Ridge also won the Class 2A crown under Joe Girardi in 1974 and again under Tom Marshing in 1983.

The school actually boasts 15 state titles if you count the Class 1A crown won by Lakeside High under Bob Schneider in 1959 before Blue Ridge opened.

Blue Ridge won four consecutive 3A crowns from 1994-97 before Payson snapped the Jackets’ state-record 64-game winning streak with a 29-20 win in the 1998 3A Final.

I’ve heard rumors that Moro will step down after this season, but haven’t been able to confirm that. If he stays, he’d certainly become the winningest coach in state history within a couple of years and he might approach 400 wins before walking away.

That’s if he’s physically able to continue. When I talked to him before the start of this season, he appeared to be doing well and made no mention of this being his final season.

Whenever Moro does coach his final game, it won’t just be a loss for Blue Ridge but for high school football in general.

The Yellow Jackets have posted 27 consecutive winning seasons since going 10-18 in Moro’s first three seasons.

Moro and winning football go hand-and-hand. People say there are more important things than winning and I suppose that’s true. But who doesn’t like winning?

I can’t think of anybody.

Payson hasn’t reached the state title game since beating Blue Ridge 34-33 in double overtime in the 2008 Class 3A Final. The Yellow Jackets have returned to the championship game every season since that game. That’s five consecutive title game appearances. They won it all in 2009 and ’11.

Blue Ridge is 6-2 and No. 5 in the Division IV power rankings. But I don’t like the power rankings. I don’t think they make a lot of sense. If I were ranking teams, I’d list Show Low No. 1, Blue Ridge No. 2 and Snowflake No. 3. After all, the Yellow Jackets handed No. 1 Snowflake its only loss, 38-35, didn’t they?

Blue Ridge’s two losses came at Prescott (30-14), which is ranked No. 10 in Div. III, and at Show Low (38-14).

Although I pegged 6-2 Show Low, No. 3 in the power rankings, the team to beat before the season started and believe the Cougars will win it all, don’t be surprised if Blue Ridge is back in the final round for a sixth straight season next month.

Payson is 4-4 and No. 16 in the power rankings. The five section champions and 11 at-large teams based on the power rankings qualify for the state tournament.

The Longhorns likely need to beat either Blue Ridge or Show Low next week on the road to have a shot at the playoffs. But the power rankings are so difficult to understand that maybe that’s not the case. Could the Horns sneak in with a 4-6 record? I think it’s unlikely but we’ll have to wait and see. Next week’s rankings should make things clearer.

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