The changing of the guard took place earlier this season, but Tuesday's game between Boulder Creek and Mountain Ridge served as a formal ceremony.
Mountain Ridge and Deer Valley tied for the 2010 Northwest Region title, then Boulder Creek surprised many observers by making the deepest playoff run, reaching the 5A-II semifinals.
A talented trio of transfers from Phoenix Pinnacle added to the Jaguars' upward trajectory this season, while the Mountain Lions and Skyhawks have struggled through their most frustrating year in more than a decade.
This swing in fortune was in full display during the 10-0 Boulder Creek (28-4, 11-0) win in six innings at Mountain Ridge (10-14-1, 6-5). Boulder Creek is battling Scottsdale Chaparral for the top seed in 5A-II. Meanwhile, Mountain Ridge will miss the postseason for the first time since its formative years.
"I don't think we have a shot of making it now. We had to win out including this game to have any shot of getting in," Mountain Ridge coach Tommy Eubanks said. "We're at the point in the season where we'll get everybody some time and work toward next year."
The Jaguars jumped out early, picking up three runs on two hits the top of the first. That was more than enough for one of the Pinnacle refugees, junior ace Tony Blanford. He allowed one hit in five innings, striking out seven and sending down the Mountain Lions in order for the first three innings.
Mountain Ridge junior Houston Samuel righted himself in the second and third innings but ran into more trouble in the fourth. Junior David Real (also formerly of Pinnacle) led off with a double. Senior Joseph Fant knocked him in on another double.
Senior Phillip Bayus' single plated Fant. Then senior Johnny Pawling finished the scoring by drilling another double.
The Mountain Lions finally pressured Blanford in the fourth. But even with runners on second and third base with one out, the home team could not score.
"They all work hard. With some kids it gets through and some it doesn't," Eubanks said. "We've kept pushing and continued to work, but there's not much else to say about it."
Against senior reliever Dan Will, senior Alex Real (the third Pinnacle transfer) led off the fifth inning with a home run over the left field fence. Junior West Tunnell added an RBI in the inning.
In the sixth, senior Cody Jones knocked in Boulder Creek's final run off senior Aaron Woods.
While this loss played out much like the Mountain Lions' 19-8 defeat by Chaparral, close losses are what's cost Mountain Ridge dearly in 2011.
The Mountain Lions lost four power point games by three runs or less this year. That's why their season will end next week.
"It's all come down to one hit. This year we've lost games 2-1, 5-4, 5-3, 7-4. It's just not getting a hit when we're in scoring position," Eubanks said.