Tucson Salpointe Catholic was just too good not to end up in 6A under the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s annual football conference realignment rules.
Now Lancers are Road Lancers.
Playing in the East Valley region with Mesa Red Mountain, Mesa Mountain View, Gilbert Williams Field and Queen Creek, they have only two games against teams in Southern Arizona – Vail Cienega and Tucson Mica Mountain .
The others are against the schools in the valley. They traveled 126 miles (one way) to Scottsdale Chaparral, a 23-20 overtime loss, last week. On Friday they travel 145 miles to take on Anthem Boulder Creek.
Coach Eric Rogers said he likes the challenge of increasing the schedule this year with mostly Valley meets, but he knows how daunting it can be, being the only school in Tucson playing in the best soccer conference.
The AIA realigns football conferences annually based on school performance over a three-year period.
Salpointe lost to Scottsdale Horizon in last year’s 5A State Championship game. When he had running back Bijan Robinson, he made the Open Division playoffs (top eight teams across schools 6A, 5A, and 4A) in 2019, reaching the quarterfinals.
They returned to the semi-finals of The Open in 2020.
“Might have to check with our DA, but I think our travel budget has quadrupled,” coach Eric Rogers said. “Playing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is new for us as well (for the lower levels who travel more than two hours in the valley).
“A lot of pressure on the youngsters to stay on top of academics during the week. The freshman (the team) won’t be home (Wednesday) until 1am, and they still have some classes and tests (Thursday).”
To help, Rogers said Salpointe is offering football players after-school tutoring Monday through Thursday to help them get up to speed.
“One day, one week at a time,” Rogers said. “We’re making the most of it.”
Luckily for them, they’ll only have two trips to the Valley after this week — to Red Mountain on Oct. 14 and Queen Creek on Nov. 10 — before the playoffs start.
They play at Cienega and bring Mica Mountain home in consecutive weeks this season.
Thursday night lights
There may be more Thursday Night games this season than any other in AIA history. There are 12 tonight and nine next week, including rivals Brophy Prep and St. Mary’s facing off and Chandler – the No. 8 team in the nation – traveling to play Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.
The shortage of AIA officials is the cause. The AIA is asking schools to be more flexible than ever in bringing crews to every game in the state.
There have been 12 Thursday night college games this week. Next Thursday there will be nine college games, with rivals Brophy and St. Mary’s facing off and top-ranked Chandler traveling to play Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.
On September 16, when St. Johns host Chinle, St. Johns will honor former coach Mike Morgan by naming the stadium after him in a half-time ceremony.
Morgan, who retired after last season, has the most all-time wins in Arizona high school football history with 349. Morgan will be joined by his family, former assistant coaches and former St. Johns players.
Morgan coached high school football for 43 years, leading St. Johns to six small school state championships and eight state finals.
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