Four years without a title is not long for most football programs. To Lakeside Blue Ridge, it’s an eternity.
The Yellow Jackets made sure a second straight group of kids didn’t make it through their high schools careers without a title. Two straight classes hadn’t gone fruitless at Blue Ridge in 21 years.
Quarterback Jake Meixler scored four touchdowns and the defense forced three turnovers as Blue Ridge won its 13th state title with a 41-21 victory over Show Low in the 3A championship game Saturday at Northern Arizona's Walkup Skydome.
Running back Keevan Schimmel had 119 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries , but the Jackets got contributions from all over the field.
"It’s a special program," coach Paul Moro said. "We’ve always focused more on the team than the individual. That’s why we may not have the gaudy stats that you see elsewhere."
Other top storylines from the week
2. Santa sinks Slope: Arizona boys basketball fans got an early-season treat when two of the top 4A teams and two of the state’s top players squared off in the semifinals of the Arrowhead Desert Basketball Classic. Tucson Santa Rita point guard Terrell Stoglin got the better of fellow All-Arizona guard Royce Woolridge in a 75-71 win. Stoglin had 29 points to lead all scorers. Woolridge had 26 points with six 3-pointers, including three in the final quarter when the Vikings tried to rally.
3. Year of the Trojan: Chandler Valley Christian coach Bill Morgan felt all along that this was the Trojans’ year. Saturday, Morgan’s premonition held true in a 41-32 victory over Willcox in the 2A football championship. Valley quarterback Jordan Morgan rushed for 87 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 156 yards and a 57-yard score to Drew Bond. That was just enough to withstand Willcox running back Rudy Verdugo, who rushed for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
4. Sayonara Saguaro: Scottsdale Saguaro’s three-year reign as 4A-I state football champ came to an end in the state semifinals. Tucson Sabino cruised to a 28-6 victory that ended Saguaro’s 14-game postseason winning streak.
5. Winter is here: In addition to boys and girls basketball, the wrestling and boys and girls soccer seasons are underway with holiday tournaments all over the state.
The Fab 5
1. Rudy Verdugo, Willcox, Sr., RB: 38 rushes, 287 yards, four TDs in 2A title-game loss to Chandler Valley Christian.
2. Ka’Deem Carey, Oro Valley Canyon del Oro, Jr., RB: 12 carries, 122 yards, 3 TDs in win over Vail Cienega.
3. Keevan Schimmel, Lakeside Blue Ridge. Sr., RB: 22 rushes, 105 yards, 2 TDs in 3A title-game win over Show Low.
4. Ian Garlets, Tucson Sabino, Sr., QB: 194 all-purpose yards, 3 TDs in 4A-II semifinal win over Cottonwood Mingus.
5. Jordan Morgan, Chandler Valley Christian, Jr. QB: 15 rushes, 87 yards, three TDs; 9 of 15 passing, 156 yards, TD.
The Class 5A-I and 5A-II football semifinals are set for Friday at neutral sites while the 4A-I and 4A-II finals are set for Saturday at the University of Arizona. In 5A-I; top seeded Chandler Hamilton faces Chandler and Phoenix Mountain Pointe plays Mesa. In 5A-II, top-seeded Peoria Centennial meets Tempe Marcos de Niza while No. 2 seed Scottsdale Chaparral meets Scottsdale Desert Mountain in a rematch of the regular-season finale, won by Desert Mountain, 27-20. The 4A-I title game pits Oro Valley Canyon del Oro against Tucson Sabino; the 4A-II title game has Glendale Cactus facing Tucson Santa Rita.
Goodyear Millennium’s Marquis Flowers, the Arizona Republic's No.1 football prospect for the Class of 2010, told the Republic he took his official visit to Arizona State last weekend. He said he also plans to take recruiting trips to USC and UCLA, and hopes to take one to Arizona, before declaring. Flowers, who is being recruited as an athlete, told the Republic he will wait until the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan.9 to announce his decision on the NBC live broadcast from San Antonio… Peoria Centennial MLB Austin Arias de-committed from UNLV after the school fired coach Mike Sanford… Tempe Marcos de Niza’s 5-foot-10 Ramon Abreu took an official visit to Arizona State last weekend, and he has an offer. He is being recruited as a safety.
The Class 5A Division I state football semifinals offer a pair of terrific matchups. That’s a nice switch from years past. I remember too many past occasions where I could pencil in the finalists before the games were ever played.
This year, I can’t decide which game is more intriguing: Unbeaten Phoenix Mountain Pointe against resurgent Mesa High; or top-seeded Chandler Hamilton against city rival Chandler.
Mountain Pointe has been the best story of the season under new coach Norris Vaughan. This program was on the scrap heap, now it’s on the verge of its first state-title game. Mesa High was one of the state’s marquee programs until the early 1990s. But shifting demographics led some to believe the Jackrabbits' heyday had ended. A nasty defense and an underrated coach in Kelley Moore say otherwise.
Mesa has the defense to stop Mountain Pointe’s potent rushing attack of Davon Jones and De’Andre Currie. If that happens – it hasn’t yet this season -- the Pride is in trouble because this has been a one-dimensional offense all year. Quarterback Austin Blom has completed 53.7 percent of his passes and is averaging just 60.6 yards a game.
In the other game, Chandler will try to atone for poor clock management that allowed Hamilton to rally from a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to win 24-20 on Oct. 2. The Wolves have a dangerous dual-threat in quarterback Brett Hundley, and a pair of dangerous runners in Taylor Walstad and Oshae Hatcher. Will that be enough to overcome the psychological baggage of that first meeting and their overall history? The Wolves have never beaten the Huskies, who are shooting for their fifth title in the past seven years.
Craig Morgan is a freelance writer who has covered professional, college and high school sports in the Phoenix area for the past 17 years. He currently serves as the Phoenix correspondent for CBSSports.com, covering the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns and other pro and college teams in Arizona. He also writes a weekly column and other features for The Arizona Republic. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.