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{jcomments on}It’s no secret summer isn’t my favorite time of the year to cover the Verde Valley, so when the calendar page turns to August, I get all excited for the fall season.

The 2011-2012 school year will be my fifth year covering the local high school sports scene, and I’ve seen so much take place. The good thing about sports, however, is every season is different.

This fall, there are plenty of questions surrounding the local high school teams for fans to mull over the next four weeks before schedules get under way.

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Verde Valley is the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s change in direction.

Beginning with individual sports in 2010-2011, the AIA made realignment changes. This school year, all team sports will feel the effect with conferences and regions being eliminated and divisions and sections being introduced.

To make things simple, school districts decided enough is enough with travel, stating it’s not affordable. They brought their case to the AIA, which decided to make wholesale changes. Now schools will play teams closer to them, despite their attendance numbers, and let things fall where they may.

So what are some other questions for Verde Valley high schools? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Will the Sedona Red Rock High School football team win more than one game this season? How will the Mingus Union High School volleyball team respond to its new volleyball coach Brian Herman? What about the Camp Verde High School volleyball team? Will it be over .500 this year and possibly make state? Juniors Katie Wilson, Amanda Showers and Donnie Buss hope that’s the case.

Or how about Verde Valley School’s sports programs in general? Will they survive with ex-Athletic Director Matt Moran being told this past spring to pack his bags due to budget cuts? Although they only have boys and girls soccer at their small school, the Coyotes generally find a way to compete. Will there be soccer at all at Verde Valley?

How about the Marauders football team? Can the boys at Mingus recover from the Bob Young soap opera? Young left Mingus in May to take a job at Prescott High School, only to turn around July 1 and come back to the Marauders.

With Mingus, the offseason is a big part of its football program, and the normal man in charge wasn’t there.

Longtime assistant coach Neil Dixon was named the full-time head coach only a week before Young decided to return, but in the four-plus weeks Young was absent wearing Badger gear, Dixon ran the show and kept the Marauders working hard in the summer.

To stick with Mingus, will second-year Head Coach Erin Estes bring her swimming team to the next level for the Marauders?

In Camp Verde, the Cowboys football team is always a fun sitcom to tune in to. The last print the Cowboys received was a fight between themselves and Valley Christian High School in Sedona during a seven-on-seven tournament in June.

For the Cowboys this fall, however, the schedule should be tough with a season finale against Mingus. The Marauders are 7-0 against Camp Verde since the series began in 1970, but the two teams haven’t locked horns since 1988. The game is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 28, in Camp Verde.

The good news for longtime Head Coach Luke Steege is he may have a starting lineup full of seniors. The last time I chatted with Steege, he expected as many as nine, 10, maybe even 11 boys starting as seniors.

Other questions surrounding the Verde Valley include the Sedona volleyball team. Will the Scorpions make a run at a state championship like they did in 2009 when they were beaten by Monument Valley in the state semifinals?

In 2010, the Scorpions set a school record with 30 wins, and John Parks will be looking for that kind of output once again in 2011.

How about Sedona’s defending Section II [Division IV] girls cross country champions? The junior trio of Mykala Seresun, Taylor Gage and Eva Wilson hope to bring home another title this season.

Speaking of cross country, will Mingus return to form, and will Camp Verde have enough kids to compete?

All in all, this fall should be exciting to watch for Verde Valley sports fans. Stay tuned.

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