There are rivalries, there are heated rivalries and there are blood feuds.
Then there is the Blue Ridge (Lakeside.)
vs. Show Low
football game, which takes place this Friday at Blue Ridge.
"It's always been intense," Blue Ridge athletic director Dave Clark said.
For good reason.
Either Blue Ridge or Show Low has won 11 of the past 16 Class 3A state championships and the two schools are the far-and-away favorites to win another this season. To prepare for this game, Clark said the school is bringing in extra portable toilets, extra concession stands and temporary bleachers to accommodate an estimated 10,000 fans from these two tiny communities.
There are plenty of accolades to buoy each team's resume.
Coming into this game, No. 2 Blue Ridge is riding a 22-game winning streak and is the defending state champ.
No. 1 Show Low is also No. 1 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association power points that determine seeding for the state playoffs. Blue Ridge is No.2.
The game features six players from The Arizona Republic's preseason rankings of the state's top 10 players at their positions: Blue Ridge’s Jordan Morgan
(No. 2 defensive back), Show Low's Josh Weeks
(No. 1 wide receiver), Show Low's Rathen Ricedorff
(No. 5 quarterback), Show Low's Trevar MacArthur
(No. 8 linebacker), Blue Ridge's Alex Stebbins
(No. 10 linebacker), and Blue Ridge's Chayse Russell
(No. 10 running back).
Ricedorff enters the game with 91 career touchdown passes, three short of the all-time state record. Weeks, a junior, is already the 3A state record-holder for career touchdown catches with 32.
As for Blue Ridge, sophomore running back Chans Cox
is averaging a gaudy 11 yards a carry.
That’s enough to make this the most heated rivalry in the White Mountains, if not the state. But the game got added fuel this offseason when Morgan, a Cal commit, opted to transfer to Blue Ridge.
Four months after leading Valley Christian (Chandler)
to the 2009 Class 2A state football championship as a junior quarterback, Morgan’s father, Bill — Valley's coach for five seasons — abruptly resigned, saying he was tired of fighting so many envy-based battles involving his son.
"When you're a good athlete and you play for dad, there's a lot of prejudgment that goes on," Bill Morgan said.
In leaving Valley Christian, Morgan created an unforeseen consequence: According to a school bylaw, once a student is no longer attending the school, his/her parent(s) can no longer teach at the school. That meant Jordan's mother, Carla, lost her job as a special education teacher at the end of the school year. She was offered a job in the Chandler district for the following fall, but that job was later eliminated and no similar jobs were available in the district.
Since the Morgans own property in Arizona's White Mountains, and Carla was reportedly close to landing a teaching job up north, they opted for Blue Ridge.
But the drama wasn't over.
Show Low officials accused former Show Low defensive coordinator and current Yellow Jackets assistant Danny Hawkins of recruiting Morgan to attend Blue Ridge. School officials even claimed they had text messages to prove it.
On Sept. 16, the AIA cleared Morgan to play, finding no wrongdoing. That same day, Show Low also self-reported its own recruitment of Morgan – a charge the AIA also dismissed.
That highly publicized, highly contentious issue led civic leaders in both towns to call for cool heads this week as the game approaches. The message was clear: The game is big, but the fact that people are neighbors and, in some cases family, is far more important.
"We were talking to one class the other day and asked them 'How many of you have relatives at Show Low?'" Clark said. "About 80 percent of the class raised its hands."
Clark is hoping Friday's game isn't marked by family dysfunction.OTHER TOP STORYLINES FROM THE WEEK2. Latest enrollment figures released:
A dream matchup of Class 5A-I’s top team, Hamilton (Chandler)
, and 5A-II’s top team, Chaparral (Scottsdale)
, won’t happen in the next two postseasons. The Arizona Interscholastic Association released the latest enrollment figures for the 2011-2013 scheduling block. Although football will be cut from seven conferences to six next season, Hamilton is in Division I while Chaparral is in Division II. The only hope now is for Chaparral to petition up. Athletic director Corey Newland said the school will make that decision by the end of the week. Click here
for a link to the latest enrollments and projected conference alignments.3. Chaparral escapes sanctions:
The AIA executive board did not ask 5A-II’s top-ranked team, Chaparral, to forfeit any games for using a "foreign" player who didn't have the necessary transfer paperwork filed for eligibility.
A special-teams player from Sweden played in the first four games for Chaparral. He was removed from the team after Chaparral and the Scottsdale Unified School District learned he was ineligible. The player was part of a tuition-paying foreign-exchange agency that is not recognized by the AIA. 4. AIA rescinds Cesar Chavez probation:
The AIA’s executive board voted Monday to rescind the second probation for Cesar Chavez (Laveen) if it turns in paperwork explaining the corrective actions the school and the Phoenix Union High School District have taken since recruiting allegations surfaced regarding a former player.5. Definitive judgment: O'Connor (Phoenix)
officially arrived as a 5A-II title contender after Friday’s 38-13 whipping of 5A-I playoff team Mountain Ridge (Glendale). O’Connor’s defense picked off three passes and Matt Mcelroy
caught two touchdown passes as O’Connor took control of the Northwest Region and likely assured itself of a high playoff seed.THE FAB FIVE1. Chim Nga, Sr., RB, Queen Creek:
The Valley's most underappreciated running back ran for 308 yards and five touchdowns in just three quarters of play as the Bulldogs throttled Seton Catholic (Chandler).2. The Tempe Prep defense:
Held defending 2A state champ Valley Christian to 115 yards of offense in a 25-0 victory. It was the first time Valley had been shut out since 2003.3. Jordan Mitchell, So., RB, Cibola (Yuma):
Ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns while passing for another in a game he dedicated to his recently deceased aunt (a win over Yuma).4. Teddy Ruben, Sr., QB, Saguaro (Scottsdale):
Ran for 215 yards and four touchdowns while passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns i
n a win over Cactus Shadows (Cave Creek).5. Rathen Ricedorff, Sr., QB, Show Low:
Completed 16 of 20 passes for 373 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Alchesay (Whiteriver). FIVE GAMES TO WATCH5A-I: Brophy College Prep (Phoenix) at No. 1 Hamilton (Chandler), Friday, 7 p.m.:
The Broncos lost starting quarterback Tyler Bruggman
for the season with a broken ankle just when Brophy was starting to mature. This game lacks the drama of past meetings, but Brophy coach Scooter Molander always gives the Huskies a test.4A-I: No. 3 Queen Creek at No. 9 Apache Junction, Friday, 7 p.m.:
Queen Creek has been climbing the 4A-I ladder the past four weeks, but the Prospectors present a formidable road block in the Bulldogs’ playoff plans.4A-II: No. 8 Higley (Gilbert) at No. 2 Williams Field (Gilbert), Friday, 7 p.m.:
Don’t be fooled by Higley’s three losses. They all came in close fashion to good 4A-I teams. The Knights are on fire and so is running back Kelvin Fisher. But Higley district rival Williams Field is unbeaten and plays great defense.3A: No. 1 Show Low at No. 2 Blue Ridge, Friday, 7 p.m.:
A preview of the title game? We hope so.3A: No. 6 Empire (Tucson) at No. 4 Florence, Friday, 7 p.m.:
Control of the South Region is on the line.CRAIG'S CRANIUM
Hamilton is the undisputed king of 5A-I. Chaparral rules 5A-II with only Centennial (Peoria)
as a legitimate contender. Canyon del Oro (Tucson)
is rolling through 4A-I for a second straight year. Cactus (Glendale)
is still atop 4A-II and Blue Ridge and Show Low are head and shoulders above the 3A field.
But who is the favorite in 2A after upstart Tempe Prep demolished Valley Christian on Friday? Is it the Knights or will Scottsdale Christian and Valley Christian rebound from losses to Tempe Prep?
Is Northwest Christian (Phoenix) the new favorite since it already beat Tempe and eked by another 2A power, Yuma Catholic? Is St. Johns quietly poised for another title? How about unbeaten Willcox or 3-4 Thatcher, which has fallen three times to 3A playoff teams and almost beat Tempe Prep last week?
We have no idea what to think – and that's why 2A is our favorite conference this year. The playoffs look wide open.Craig Morgan is a freelance writer who has covered professional, college and high school sports in the Phoenix area for the past 18 years. He currently serves as the Phoenix correspondent for CBSSports.com, covering the Arizona Cardinals and other local teams. He also writes a weekly column and other features for The Arizona Republic. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.