To wrap up the fall 2010 season, I’d like to congratulate several high schools teams on a job well done.

With All-Region and All-State considerations around the corner, I’d like to hand out a few fall sports awards of my own.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association executive board and its athletic directors continue to spin heads like we’re taking part in the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist” with the new divisional and sectional alignments, making it understandable only to those who possess a doctorate in athletic organizational mayhem.

One day, hopefully, we’ll all get used to what school and what sport is in what division and what section.

Say that three times fast.

Perhaps the biggest mind boggler of them all, however, is the increase in ticket fees for regional and state tournaments this season in team sports, and sectional and divisional tournaments for individual sports.

I attended the 3A West Regional Volleyball Championships this past weekend in Sedona, and to my surprise, there were only two — that’s right, two — students in the stands at Sedona Red Rock High School for the West semifinals.

For teams that absolutely depend on a good student turnout to help them strive to be their best, it’s difficult playing in an empty gymnasium. Make no mistake, teams feed off an emotional crowd filled with a few hundred students.

The AIA is now charging a whopping $6 a head for students, with school identification of course, and $8 for any parents or other adults looking to attend. For state tournaments, which began this past weekend in some sports and begin this week for others, the AIA is charging a monumental $10 a head for adults, with no change to student rates.

I’m sorry, but, this seems to be a bit much, wouldn’t you say?

Major League Baseball fans can pay less than $10 to get a seat to a pro baseball game, never mind the fact parents and other fans will have to pay the same amount to watch a bunch of pimply-faced kids kick the ball around this spring.

For a team like the Scorpions, who wound up winning the regional tournament by the way despite a lackluster crowd, a student fan base is key to its success.

Asking a team to work hard all year so it can host a tournament match or game at the end of its season is more than enough, never mind the fact that many students who attend regular season games pay $1 and $2, or get in free altogether.

Asking a young teenager who probably doesn’t work for a living to pay $6 to get a seat at a high school game is silly.

In the end, this will eventually hurt the AIA, not help. Let’s not forget that every penny of a regional or state game goes to the AIA — not the schools themselves.

There’s a reason why two years ago the AIA put every 1A conference state basketball tournament game at Prescott High School, asking teams to play all four rounds in four days time, and then turning around and allowing the 3A conference state tournament to be played at Arena in Glendale.

What’s the reason, you ask?

Well, the 3A will bring northern schools down from the reservation, which happen to travel well. A final four basketball game between Tuba City and Monument Valley high school’s could bring 10,000 people.
What does that equal? More money for the AIA, not Tuba City and Monument Valley.

Isn’t it supposed to be about a special moment, a special memory for the kids, for the athletes who work hard all year toward one common goal?

Getting to play at a lousy high school for a state championship isn’t even close to playing on an NBA pro basketball court like United Airlines Arena for a title like high schools did years ago.

When I attended SRRHS and played basketball for the Scorpions, we made the state semifinals in 2000 and played on the same floor as great Suns players like Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash. You can bet I’ll never forget that, and neither will any of my teammates.

Yes, you could say, “If we are to have those special venues for everyone, we need to charge more.” OK, well, how about the thousands of dollars schools pay in fees to be a part of the AIA in the first place?

What ever happened to loading up a bus full of kids to go watch their team play at state? You don’t see much of that anymore either, thanks to everyone trying to cover their butt with a generation of legalities not even Moses himself could part.

In the end, charging adults to attend high school games is one thing, but I call for a free pass for students.

It’s the right thing to do and it gives our student athletes a natural high to be cheered by their peers.{jcomments on}

A few weeks ago the Arizona Interscholastic Association released a new alignment plan for all schools that will change the face of high school athletics in Arizona as we know it.

In any argument, there are two sides to the story. The two sides — those that are for it, and those against it — are sure to go at it all day with their own reasons and beliefs, but the simple fact is it is happening.

For those who don’t know and might have been living under a rock in the past few months, the AIA removed all conference and region alignments in August and have moved toward a divisional format.

For individual and team sports, there are fewer state championship trophies to win. Schools will be aligned based on enrollment with Division I being the biggest, and Divisions II, III and IV following suit.

Individual sports such as cross country, track and field, wrestling, tennis and golf are going through the changes as we speak while team sports like football, basketball, baseball, softball and soccer begin the changes in 2010-2011.

My take on the new changes passed by the AIA executive board is this:

One, high schools will be challenged more so than ever before and state tournaments won’t be as “watered” down as in the past.

Two, the smaller schools suffer most of the consequences, having to compete against larger schools nearly four times their size to achieve a state championship when the state tournament rolls around at season’s end.

And three, athletic departments will save money on travel and AIA fees, which are being reduced by a certain percentage.

Of course, there are many middle arguments and points to be made that fall into place when looking at the two basic sides, but all three points I made have merit, and are subject to debate.

To stick with the sport I know best, which is basketball, there will be seven state championships given out come February. In 2012, there will be four.

There are about 250 schools that play basketball in Arizona, and with four divisions, that means there will be just over 60 schools in each fighting for one crown.

I believe this format is good only because it makes a state championship that much harder to attain.

But, I will say this. How fair is it to the players at schools that may have 450 to 500 students enrolled and have 20 to 30 kids come out for basketball in a given year to play a school in the state tournament that has nearly 1,800 students enrolled and may have as many as 100 come out for the sport? Sheer numbers can be difficult to overcome.

At last, however, schools may begin to see some economic relief with less travel for athletic departments to pay for with a geographical scheduling system. And in the days of athletic budgets taking a big hit, this is definitely a good thing.

To have my own soapbox moment, in the end, high school athletics isn’t supposed to be about winning in the first place.

It’s a chance to teach young individuals how to become responsible adults who become an asset to their surrounding communities.

It’s a chance to teach them how to work hard, be involved in something greater than themselves and to teach the benefits of teamwork.

Don’t get me wrong, I strive to win just like all coaches do. However, character, integrity and teaching young people how to respond through adversity are most important.

For all the hype and water cooler attention fantasy football gets these days, I thought it best to pick a fantasy football team of my own and share it with our readers.

Since everyone and their mother picks professional players from the NFL in fantasy football, I thought it would be fun to buck tradition and pick amateur football players this season from our biggest three schools in the Verde Valley.


The talent pool is deep, to say the least, with Camp Verde, Sedona Red Rock and Mingus Union high schools football squads ready to begin the 2010 season.


We’ll use a basic fantasy football statistical format to keep stats for these young stars, which was my basis in picking these particular players.

For my starters, senior quarterback Nick Alred leads the way. Alred had a fantastic junior year with 75 completions for over 1,200 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. His legs were useful as well, with 123 carries for 827 yards and seven touchdowns in Bob Young’s option offense.

Senior teammate Juan Gonzalez starts for me at runningback. Gonzalez had 101 carries for 757 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009. Gonzalez wasn’t much of an option in the flat however, catching only five passes last season but those numbers should improve in 2010.

In Camp Verde, junior playmaker Kody Rayburn gets the nod at my other runningback position. Rayburn wasn’t much of a factor in 2009 but is sure to have a standout season in 2010 after he gained five inches and 30 pounds over the summer.

At wide receiver, Sedona junior Bradley Cox is going to have a stellar year in Scorpions purple. In 2009, Cox caught 16 balls for 277 yards and one touchdown, but with new Head Coach Rick Walsworth at the helm, Cox will be a run option on sweep plays, as well as catch passes in the flat, making him a can’t miss pick for my team.

Junior Deshon Tripp had only 18 catches for 258 yards last season but should be more of a focus this season in Camp Verde with Ty Wantland and Donovan Kilby having graduated.

At my third wide receiver position, senior Carson Sandoval should have a solid season for Mingus.

At tight end, senior Mingus teammate Nate Westcott should have plenty of opportunity to catch a few passes from Alred this season.
For my kicker, Sedona junior Jack Johnson will get all the reps this season since I didn’t pick a back-up.

As for my defense, I would have to go with the Marauders on this one. The boys in red and grey were one of the top defenses in the 4A-II conference last season, if not the state, with more than 35 sacks, 13 interceptions and over 1,100 tackles.

Speaking of defense, not many avid fantasy football players get a chance to pick defensive players but I thought, why the heck not?

At defensive back, I must go with Gonzalez for Mingus, who is one of the more ligit safeties in Arizona high school football. Gonzalez had 140 tackles, 10 sacks and three interceptions to lead the defense for the Marauders in 2009. Gonzalez is a surefire All-State selection come December.

At linebacker, I will go with senior Tanner Rezzonico, who should have a great season for Camp Verde in 2010. Rezzonico had 75 tackles and one sack in 2009.

On the defensive line, junior Jordan Pickett looks to have a good season for Sedona, clogging up the middle and making tackles.

On my bench, there were several players pushing for a starting job beginning with Mingus linebacker Matt Chavez. Chavez had 80 tackles, 9.5 sacks and three passes defended in 2009.

Johnson, for Sedona, is an easy pick for the back-up quarterback on my team while Camp Verde wide out Jake Spleiss and tight end Chris Zellner should have solid seasons for the Cowboys.

Camp Verde would be my selection for the back-up defense and Sedona newcomer Ashor Samano will fill in nicely at runningback if Gonzalez or Rayburn gets injured.

Samano is a junior transfer from Chicago and is already one of the best players for Sedona this season.
Below is my roster of players explained in this article and an explanation of the statistical point system for 2010.

If interested in giving me your own fantasy football team for our local high schools, send me an e-mail and I’ll take a look. At the end of the season, I’ll print the results of the top fantasy football team.


High School Fantasy Football Roster


QB    Nick Alred    Senior    Mingus Union
RB    Juan Gonzalez    Senior    Mingus Union
RB    Kody Rayburn    Junior    Camp Verde
WR    Bradley Cox    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
WR    Deshon Tripp    Junior    Camp Verde
WR    Carson Sandoval    Senior    Mingus Union
TE    Nate Westcott    Senior    Mingus Union
K    Jack Johnson    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
DEF    Mingus Union
DB    Juan Gonzalez    Senior    Mingus Union
LB    Tanner Rezzonico    Senior    Camp Verde
DL    Jordan Pickett    Junior    Sedona Red Rock


QB    Jack Johnson    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
RB    Ashor Samano    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
WR    Jake Spleiss    Junior    Camp Verde
TE    Chris Zellner    Junior    Camp Verde
DEF    Camp Verde
DP    Matt Chavez    Senior    Mingus Union

Statistical categories

Passing:    20 yards passing    1 point
Completions    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Interceptions    -2 points
Rushing:    10 yards rushing    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Fumbles lost    -2 points
Receiving:    10 yards receiving    1 point
Catches    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Kicking:    Extra points    1 point
Field Goal [1-19 yards]    3 points
Field Goal [20-29 yards]    3 points
Field Goal [30-39 yards]    4 points
Field Goal [40-49 yards]    5 points
Field Goal [50+ yards]    6 points
Defense:    Tackles    1 point
Take aways    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Individual Defense:    Tackles    1 point
Interceptions    1 point
Sacks    1 point
Passes defensed    1 point

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