First round could be no picnic in Division I
Not only is there parity atop Division I football this season, the overall strength of the playoff participants should be better.
Last season, first round cakewalks included a 55-point win by Basha over Tucson, a 49-point win by Desert Ridge over Boulder Creek, a 35-point win by Desert Vista over North Canyon, a 30-point win by Hamilton over Valley Vista, a 26-point win by Red Mountain over Sunnyside, a 25-point win by Brophy over Mountain Pointe and a 19-point win by Pinnacle over Cibola. Only Chandler’s one-point overtime win against Westview was a good game.
Most of the regular contenders (Brophy, Hamilton, Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe, Desert Ridge, Chandler, Red Mountain, Basha) should again secure high seeds, but this year’s opening round won’t have as many blowouts.
Desert Mountain is the last undefeated team in the division and has actually moved up to No. 1 in the power rankings. The Wolves haven’t shown the dominance of a No. 1 team, but look to be in line for a home game and will be a handful for any foe. Furthermore, Mountain View has come on strong with four straight wins, Pinnacle started 5-0, Westview’s only loss came to Red Mountain in the season opener and Highland is 4-2 with one of the better defenses in the division.
Those five teams are the ones the top-8 want to avoid.
Speaking of power points, there could be some controversy brewing in Division I if the seedings hold. In the current model, three teams from each section are guaranteed a berth in the postseason.
In Section I, No. 12 Valley Vista is currently among the top 16 teams, but that’s it. Westview is sitting at No. 19 and Cibola is all the way down at No. 23. Westview is 5-1 but has been hurt by its strength of schedule, though that gets an uptick with Brophy, Mountain Ridge and Valley Vista on the docket the rest of the way. If the Knights finish 8-2, I’d imagine they move up into the top-16.
Cibola, though, may not make it, and if another Section I team like St. Mary’s doesn’t make a move, it would then bump the No. 16 seed out of the postseason. Some coaches don’t like the current setup, and if a team like Mountain Ridge or Highland gets bumped out because of this rule, it would be a good example why three automatic bids is too many.