Four Yuma Catholic teams moving up to Division III
Not every prep sports team in the area is moving down a division.
With realignment under the Arizona Interscholastic Association starting this coming fall, the Yuma Catholic boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball teams are moving up to Division III.
“It's part of building those programs up,” Yuma Catholic athletic director Rhett Stallworth said. “And in order to build a program up, you have to play better teams.”
The decision seems to be good news particularly for the boys' sports, which have had a good run of success recently. The Shamrocks' boys basketball team is currently No. 3 at Division IV with a record of 15-1 – its lone loss coming at Lake Havasu. Many of the games against fellow Division IV teams in their section have resulted in blowout wins for the Shamrocks, who have a young team that may only get better in the coming years.
“We're good enough to where we can compete with the teams that are up at that level,” Shamrocks boys basketball coach Brooks Neumann said. “Is it going to be easier to win a state championship? Absolutely not. But that's still what we're going to try for, and winning one at Division III would be even more sweet.”
Likewise, the baseball team has enjoyed a great deal of success the past few years. In 2011, they reached the semifinals before falling 5-4 in a heartbreaker to Scottsdale Christian. Last year, the Shamrocks made it to the Division IV state championship but lost to St. David. Even with the Shamrocks losing many seniors from the baseball team, coach Curt Foppe is happy about the decision.
“When it comes to the state level, it's going to make it a little more difficult but we want to challenge our kids and what's best for the school,” baseball coach Curt Foppe said. “I think it will be a good situation for us.”
While the boys programs have become some of the top in the state at their level, the girls teams may have a more difficult time adjusting to the switch. Stallworth said with scheduling it was necessary to bring both teams up and even if the girls might experience some growing pains, it's necessary to lift the programs.
The Shamrocks girls basketball team, which is 9-7, is just three years removed from going 0-18 in 2009-10 – but did go 26-3 the year before that.
“(Stallworth) met with me and all the respective coaches about the move and I said we'll move up,” McGalliard said. “We welcome it.”
The Shamrocks still haven't hired a softball coach, but Stallworth said that he hoped to have one by either today or Tuesday. Yuma Catholic's softball team finished 8-11 last year after finishing a combined 4-27 the previous two seasons.
Yuma Catholic is far and away the smallest school in their section for next year. According to the AIA, the Shamrocks' enrollment of 270 is the lowest with Tonopah Valley (384) and Northwest Christian (405) right ahead of them. Meanwhile, Estrella Foothills leads the section with an enrollment of 1,008.
“I'm really happy because we have a freshman team, a JV team and a varsity team so it'll be a lot easier for us to fill a schedule out,” Neumann said.
The Shamrocks football team, which has enjoyed the most success – including a state championship in 2011 – out of any of the programs, will be staying at Division V. Stallworth said that travel cost would be an issue if the football team moved up a division.
“If we did move up a Division, we'd might as well go to Division III or II because the travel at Division IV would devastate our budget,” Stallworth said. “And to move up to Divison II, with 250 kids, we'd run out of players eventually.”