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COLUMN: New format gives life to struggling Yuma teams
The Gila Ridge football team had a nightmarish first half to its season.
The Hawks lost all five games and only scored two touchdowns for a grand total of 15 points. Cibola hasn’t fared much better, going 1-4 and was shut out in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 1996.
However, thanks to new alignment by the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the Yuma-area teams’ state playoff hopes spring eternal.
Starting in 2013, all the big schools in the county combined with Lake Havasu to form Division II Section IV – which is just one of seven sections at Division II. Whoever wins the section gets an automatic qualifying bid, which is good news for Cibola (1-4), Kofa (1-4), Yuma High (1-4), Gila Ridge (0-5), San Luis (0-5) and Lake Havasu (2-3).
Coming into Friday’s games, Division II Section IV is the only section in the state – at any level – without a team with a winning record.
“Everybody’s still in it,” Gila Ridge coach Tom Hurt said. “None of us have a good record, as far as wins and losses. Now it’s whoever wins out is going to get in.”
Essentially, Division II Section IV is what used to be called the Gila Valley Region, where whoever won the GVR got it’s ticket punched for the state tournament. It wasn’t the case a year ago, when Cibola, Kofa and San Luis were in Division I and there were only three sections, making it was harder to get to the state playoffs. The Raiders managed to sneak in with a 7-3 record.
Gila Ridge, on the other hand, went 7-3 at Division II and didn’t make the playoffs. Now the Hawks could theoretically go 5-5 – if not 4-6 – and advance to the postseason.
There are critics to the new system, who believe there are plenty of teams more deserving to make the playoffs instead of a team that made it simply because its section was so weak.
It’s absolutely true but I like the new system because it’s essentially how I always viewed high school athletics before coming to Arizona.
You had a league champion and they got an automatic berth to the state tournament – that’s just the way it worked, regardless that there was always a league that was weaker than the others. It’s what made league games so fun and helped build rivalries between the schools.
This year, the games between Cibola, Lake Havasu, and Gila Ridge are likely going to determine who goes to the state tournament. There’s drama in that and drama on Friday nights is always a good thing.
Yes, there will be teams in Phoenix or Tucson or elsewhere in the state that will be irritated after they go 7-3 and don’t make the playoffs. However, in my experience with AIA Power Points and talking with coaches about it, there doesn’t really seem to be a perfect way to do it.
So instead of calling this season a waste, the local teams know they still are playing for something – that a key win against a nearby school could be enough to get them to state.