Kofa coach Jamie Nicewander and San Luis coach Tim Conroy get to see exactly how focused their teams can be.
Each team qualified for the 5A-I State Soccer Tournament, the Kings as the No. 4 seed and the Sidewinders at No. 5. Each plays Wednesday at Cibola. And lurking in the second round is a high-profile rematch against one another.
Kofa won both meetings en route to claiming its first regular-season Gila Valley Region title. Should they beat No. 13 Alhambra and San Luis knock off No. 12 Mountain Pointe, the teams would meet Saturday with the winner going to the state semifinals as the two teams take their rivalry to the next level.
First things first, both teams need to win Wednesday. For Kofa (11-0), that means topping the Lions (7-5) when the teams play at 7 p.m. Nicewander said he's putting the players through their typically tough practices leading up to the game to keep them from looking ahead.
“(Friday) we had a humdinger of a practice, we really worked them — sprints, bleachers, the whole bit,” Nicewander said. “(Saturday) at 7 o'clock in the morning we got them up and had another practice. What got them to this point and got them the region championship is what they're going to have to do to keep winning.”
Conroy said he expects the Sidewinders (11-2) to be focused on the Pride (7-5). The game is at 5 p.m. at Cibola.
“Mountain Pointe is a decent team,” Conroy said. “They're record is not the best because they've played some tough teams. If we look past them, we could be in trouble. We can't afford to look forward to anybody. We have to concentrate on this game right now.”
A new AIA rule has taken effect this year, eliminating home games for higher seeds. All games are played at neutral site, though at a site close to the higher-seeded team.
“It's what it is. It's unfortunate,” Nicewander said. “You push hard in the season (for a home game). It's kind of an interesting situation because it's closer to us, but both teams have to travel. I'm not sure why it was done, but it's not my place to question it. It stinks for the kids — they're not going to have a home field advantage.”
Conroy said given the current financial state of districts across Arizona, he isn't sure how good an idea it is.
“Everybody is in a budget crunch. I don't understand how they think having 100 percent of teams travel instead of 50 percent is a sound financial decision. That's my main thing. It seems like every few years, something changes. You never know what they're going to come up with. ... It just doesn't seem fiscally responsible to have everybody travel in this budget situation.”
Conroy's Sidewinders could be without two starters who “got into trouble” after the game. Conroy said school rules prohibited him from saying who.
As for the Kings, they'll be led by Donal Landrum, who set the school record for goals in a season in the finale at San Luis, a 3-0 Kofa win.
“You'd assume they'd go through, and you'd assume we'd go through, but you never know,” Nicewander said. “We don't want to think too far ahead We want to focus on Alhambra. I know it sounds crazy.”