It’s finally out in the open.
A new computer-driven, geographically-based (allegedly) schedule was unveiled in an effort to curb costs and cut down on a couple championships led to some glitches, on-the-fly changes and a delay so scampering schools could cross a “T” or dot an “I.”
Schools were free to publicize its 2011 football schedule at any time during the past three months, but a few were still making changes and scuffling with logistical issues.
The long-winded process is over. They became permanent on Friday, and in response, Varsity Xtra takes a crack at de-coding our July version of a Dynamite Dozen: Twelve explosive East Valley matchups we found for competitive and other compelling reasons.
Don’t worry: There’s no doubt dozens more will belong here between now and Thanksgiving weekend.
Click here to see football schedules for all East Valley schools
Aug. 20: Chaparral vs. Bishop Gorman (at University of Phoenix Stadium)
Only two East Valley games are slated for the opening weekend of Aug. 19 and 20 — Desert Vista vs. Maryvale is the other — but this is a big one. Like last year, Chaparral is in the conversation right next to Hamilton as the best team in the state. The Huskies played Bishop Gorman to kick off 2010, winning a 24-17 game at the NAU Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, and Chaparral would like to follow suit. With quarterback Connor Brewer and wide receiver/cornerback Davonte Neal returning, Chaparral’s offense should be explosive. The defense lost a lot, but transfer additions Jarvis Lewis and Dylan Cozens should help soften the blow. Bishop Gorman won the Nevada 4A championship last year and will be a great test for Chaparral.
Aug. 26: Mountain Pointe at Hamilton
Hamilton is the state standard. Four state titles in five years will do that. A .908 winning percentage in the 13-year history of the program only deepens the evidence. Mountain Pointe has such aspirations. Two straight semifinal appearances under Norris Vaughan have the Pride in the vicinity. Getting a win against Hamilton would only further Mountain Pointe’s pursuit and when they face each other again after the Huskies knocked Mountain Pointe out of the postseason in 2010, it will be a battle. Make it the first game of the season for both teams and it gives a full summer of workouts and hype for the Pride to focus on leading into the game. Hamilton gets similar treatment regardless of when it appears on an opponent’s schedule, but for 40 consecutive games, it hasn’t mattered to the Huskies. Either way, it is a great early-season game between what should be two preseason top-five teams.
Sept. 1: Tempe Prep at Valley Christian
The Knights had already turned heads in then-Class 2A by playing a traditional power in Phoenix Northwest Christian tough (28-14 loss) and punishing another in Scottsdale Christian (35-13), but this mid-October matchup in 2010 proved Tempe Prep was for real. A 25-0 win against the defending-2A champions home field was the first time the Trojans were shutout since 2003. The Knights reached the 2A semifinals before falling in a nail-biter, while an atypical “down” season for Valley Christian under first-year coach Kevin Allen won’t repeat itself. Both will be good again.
Sept. 2: Chaparral at Marcos de Niza
The Firebirds knocked off Marcos de Niza for the 2009 5A-II state title, and the rivalry intensified this summer during a scuffle in a 7-on-7 passing league tournament. The Padres return quarterback Tommy Thornton and have a plethora of athletes, but will be the underdogs in this one. Chaparral wants to make an early proclamation as the unquestioned team to beat in Division II, while Marcos would like to show that the gulf between the Firebirds and the Padres is not as wide as people think.
Sept. 9: Desert Vista at Mountain Pointe
The 15th edition of the Ahwatukee Bowl might be a doozy. For the first time both programs are coming off of state semifinal berths and both teams return plenty of experience on both sides of the ball. The Thunder leads the series overall at 9-5 although Mountain Pointe won last season at home, 20-17. The bad blood has flowed for years and it might be as intense today as it has ever been, spurred by a few players from Desert Vista who moved over to Knox Road since the end of last season. Hopefully, this year communication for the after-game exit strategy is better as the Thunder and Pride both left through the same gate at Karl Kiefer Stadium. Nothing happened, but in a rivalry like this it doesn’t take much to go sideways in a hurry.
Sept. 9: Mesquite at Chandler
Two programs in a transition time of sorts, except neither figures to go through the tough times often associated with large-scale changes. Chandler is now led by Shaun Aguano, Mesquite has Matt Gracey. The Wolves’ offense has been as prolific as any the past couple years, but QB Bretty Hundley is now at UCLA, and the Wolves will get a big test of their mettle against a program known for solid, physical defense. Conversely, the Wildcats will feature RB Anthony Lopez and what should be an effective passing game. Chandler always has athletes and this year is no exception. Can they make the most of them and prevent the Wildcats from going wild?
Sept. 16: Hamilton at Desert Ridge
The Jaguars made a surprising run to the 5A Division I championship game last season, and gave Hamilton quite the scare. Desert Ridge had the ball late in a one-possession game but fell short in a 21-13 loss. Hamilton is still the heavy favorite in Division I heading into this season, but Desert Ridge brings back several of the key players that helped the team on its magical late season run. Jordan Becerra and Parker Rasmussen could both see time at quarterback, and bulldozing running back Joey Counts returns in the backfield. Hamilton once again has to reload, but has multiple Division I athletes restocking the starting lineup. Hamilton faces off with many top teams in 5A-I during the regular season, and this will be one of those tests to see if anyone can knock off the Huskies.
Sept. 16: Chandler at Basha
Eight miles apart yet so far away. To the best of our knowledge, these two schools have never played each other since Basha opened nearly a decade ago. Not in the regular season. Not in the postseason. The new scheduling alignment fixed that, so a bunch of kids who know each other (and perhaps open enrolled at one school or the other from the same neighborhoods) will duke it out in a matchup of Division I elite. Between this matchup and the Hamilton-Desert Ridge game, expect most of the city of Chandler to be at a high school football game.
Sept. 30: Brophy at Mountain Pointe
A Brophy squad with its fourth-string QB, depleted by injuries at a variety of positions and was barely .500 was perhaps one missed field goal against Mountain Pointe away from being in the 5A Division I semifinals. This time, Brophy enters with a healthy and talented junior QB in Tyler Bruggman, not to menton experienced speedsters like Devon Allen and Fred Gammage, Robert Reif and a group of underclassmen with as much potential as any in the Scooter Molander era (if not beyond). As for Mountain Pointe, well, the Pride have lost four games since Norris Vaughan took over two years ago, and that number isn’t going to rise significantly in 2011.
Oct. 6: Red Mountain at Mountain View
Once part of the big-time, three-way intra-city rivalry with Mesa, the Lions and Toros haven’t met each other since 2008, thanks to scheduling quirks and (somehow) being put in different regions during the previous two-year block. But that’s in the past, and both these schools hold firm belief each is on the way up again. The Lions probably won’t see a lot resembling previous Mountain View teams with Chad DeGrenier replacing Tom Joseph. Then again, the Toros have been a scrappy, undersized, disciplined bunch regardless of their coach. Ron Wisniewski’s second season at Red Mountain is counting on growth and improved speed this year. We’re counting on this game being a typical old-time rivalry played with a new style.
Oct. 28: Saguaro at Chaparral
One of the state’s most entertaining rivalries is back, but it remains to be seen if the product on the field can match the war of words off it. Saguaro coach John Sanders and Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle have bantered for years, and it’s been the Sabercats who have done the damage on the field, winning all four contests between the teams since both coaches took over in 2007, the last coming in the 2008 4A-I championship game. This season, though, that script should flip. While Saguaro could challenge for the Division III crown behind star athlete D.J. Foster, Chaparral is deeper, more talented and will be the favorite to snap the losing streak. No key players on either side have participated in the rivalry, but there’s always bulletin board material here. It will be interesting to see if the hype will reach the same fervor it did a few years ago.
Oct. 28: Queen Creek at Williams Field
Steve Campbell has turned the Black Hawks into a top program in just two years at the varsity level, as Williams Field made the state championship game in 4A Division II last season and is looking like a contender again this season. Joe Germaine took over last year at Queen Creek and led the Bulldogs to the 4A Division I semifinals. These are two of the top lower division teams in the East Valley, and this is a rivalry that could heat up in the next few seasons. Williams Field running back Alex Howard will be the marquee attraction, and Queen Creek will need to slow him down in order to hang with the Black Hawks.