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Realignment finalized for next two seasons

Poston Butte joins Tucson-area schools in 5A Sonoran Region


Regions for the 2016 & '17 seasons were finalized today by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) with no further changes.  A pair of schools tried to appeal their section placements (Sahuaro and Sierra Linda), but were denied.  Sahuaro wanted to move out of what appears to be the tougher of the two Southern Arizona regions while Sierra Linda still looks misplaced geographically, but there's nothing that can be done about it now.

Let's start by taking a look at where each team will be competing.  Keep in mind, this will be for the next two seasons and in all sports.


6A REGIONS for 2016 & 2017
  Central East Valley Premier
  Corona del Sol Dobson Basha
  Desert Ridge Mesa Brophy
  Desert Vista Mountain View (Mesa) Chandler
  Gilbert Red Mountain Hamilton
  Highland Skyline Perry
  Mountain Pointe Westwood  
  Metro Desert Valley Southwest Southern
  Alhambra Boulder Creek Copper Canyon Cibola
  Central Desert Mountain La Joya Kofa
  Cesar Chavez Horizon Millennium Rincon
  Maryvale Mountain Ridge Tolleson Sunnyside
  North O'Connor Valley Vista Tucson
  Trevor Browne Pinnacle Westview  

You'll notice our regions once again have names instead of numbers!  The Central region brings Corona del Sol and Gilbert back to the top level from Division II in a region consisting solely of Tempe and Gilbert District schools.  Desert Ridge and Mountain Pointe, which battled it out for a section title this season, once again will meet in region play.  Mesa and Skyline, which faced one another in the Division II playoffs, will meet again in the East Valley region.  This will be the first time that all six Mesa District schools share a region.  Dobson and Westwood, which have traditionally been in Division I, return from Division II.  Once again, Brophy will travel Southeast to Chandler to play its regional road games in the Premier.  This one is identical to the Karl Kiefer section (Section 1) from the past year in Division I.  It was also the toughest section last season with the five teams going 22-8 outside of league play.  The Phoenix Union schools are back and comprise the Metro region.  For the past year, all 10 schools in the district shared a section in Division III.  Desert Mountain, Mountain Ridge, and O'Connor move back up to Division I to join three others in the Desert Valley region.  Not one of the six schools in the Southwest region was in Division I this past season.  Copper Canyon and La Joya jump all the way up from Division III while the other four were in Division II.  The largest Tucson and Yuma schools tried to move back down, but were denied and will make up the Southern region.  The conference allowed those schools to set their own schedules.  For Week 10, the winner of the Cibola/Kofa game will face the best record in the round robin of Rincon, Sunnyside, and Tucson for the region title.

5A REGIONS for 2016 & 2017
  Northeast Valley San Tan Metro Northwest
  Arcadia Campo Verde Apollo Centennial
  Chaparral Mesquite Ironwood Liberty
  North Canyon Queen Creek Kellis Shadow Ridge
  Notre Dame Vista Grande Maricopa Sierra Linda
  Paradise Valley Williams Field McClintock Willow Canyon
  5A REGIONS for 2016 & 2017
  Union Sonoran Southern Desert West
  Camelback Cholla Buena Agua Fria
  Carl Hayden Desert View Cienega Deer Valley
  Fairfax Flowing Wells Ironwood Ridge Desert Edge
  Glendale Marana Mountain View (Marana) Goldwater
  Independence Poston Butte Sahuaro Lake Havasu
  South Mountain     Verrado

There are two East Valley regions.  The first of these is the Northeast Valley and includes Chaparral, which made the Division I quarterfinals and Paradise Valley, which played for the Division III title.  They are the only two of the five to make the playoffs this past season.  The second is the San Tan region and has Vista Grande moving up to join four that played in Division II.  Sunnyslope has gone 29-1 in the past three regular seasons.  The Vikings are one of five schools moving up to be in the Metro (yes, another Metro) region with Apollo.  Centennial and Liberty, which have a rivalry now after meeting for the 2014 D-II title (a Centennial win) and playing in Week 10 of the 2015 season (a Liberty win), will be the powerhouses in the Northwest region.  Sierra Linda, located on 67th Avenue south of Lower Buckeye, shouldn't be in this region.  The Bulldogs should have been switched with Goldwater and Deer Valley in the Desert West, in my opinion.  The rest of the Phoenix Union schools are in the Union region (curiously not named the Metro II) along with Glendale and Independence.  GHS went 4-6 in Division IV and Independence was 1-9 in Division III, so they are probably the best fits for pairing up with the four PUHSD schools even though they are both in Glendale and not Phoenix.  There are two Tucson-area sections.  The Sonoran region, which appears to be the softer of the two, has Cholla and Flowing Wells, which both had winning seasons in Division IV moving up.  Poston Butte, located in San Tan Valley requested to be placed with the Tucson schools.  This region also has Marana and Desert View (up from Division III).  Five D-II mainstays consist of the Southern region that stretches from Marana to Sierra Vista.  Desert Edge and Verrado met in the Division III semis and will renew their new rivalry in the Desert West region.  Agua Fria, also a district school, moves up from Division III.  Lake Havasu, which was a big fish in a small pond enrollment-wise, comes up from Division IV, where it played in a semifinal.

Let's see who is no longer here.

Moving down from Division II to 4A (6 schools):  Canyon del Oro, Higley, Marcos de Niza, Saguaro, St. Mary's, and Salpointe.  Interesting in that Marcos de Niza and Saguaro met for the Division II title this season, but according to enrollment numbers, are smaller than the schools in 5A.  Higley was also a playoff team in D-II this year and Salpointe was right on the cusp.  St. Mary's was initially placed in 3A and petitioned up to 4A.

Just like this year, teams within the regions will play one another in the second half of the season.  This is with the exception of the Southern Region in 6A, which will hold a championship game in Week 10 with the best of the two Yuma schools against tops among the three Tucson teams.  Aside from that, region champions will be determined by win-loss record solely within their regions.  Tiebreakers will be decided first by head-to-head outcome, then record in games against their conference, then by overall record (assuming that it mirrors this year's). 

Conferences will meet on January 12 at Xavier HS to work on the creation of schedules for the two-year block.  It appears that region schedules will be finished that week, and more meetings can take place over the next month to select the non-section opponents.  That's where things could get contentious with so many haves and have nots in each conference.  So, while it's possible that we could have schedules before the end of February.....we'll see.  I'll be happy if we have them by late April in time for Spring ball.

As has happened since 1977, 16 teams will still qualify for the state football tournament for each conference with section champions getting automatic bids.  There are 40 schools in 6A (instead of 17 in D-I) and 43 in 5A (instead of 35 in D-II), so playoff spots will be tougher to obtain except for those who are moving up from Division III (where there were 57 teams).  In a mild surprise, the conferences elected to retain the current AIA/Maxpreps formula (which nobody understands and made Saguaro a #7 seed).  So there will be nine non-region winners in the 6A playoffs and eight in the 5A with the teams being seeded from 1 to 16 based on those points.

PHOTO CAPTION:  The Poston Butte football team takes the field for a road game.  The school in San Tan Valley opened in 2009 and played its first varsity season in 2010 (as an independent).  Following two years at Division III, the Broncos moved up to Division II in 2013 and made the playoffs a year later under the direction of Paul Moro.  After an 0-10 season in '15, Moro resigned his position as head coach.  PBHS will play in the Sonoran region in '16 and '17 playing games against Cholla, Desert View, Flowing Wells, and Marana.  Two will be in San Tan Valley each year and two will be on the road.