The football season has become a 14-week process in Ahwatukee.
It is a cycle that no one in these parts hopes comes to an end anytime soon as the 2014 season begins this week with a handful of games, including Mountain Pointe’s trip to Las Vegas for the Sollenberger Classic.
The Pride enter the season among the preseason favorites and if everything falls into place just right Mountain Pointe could make its third straight appearance in the Division I finals.
If it happens it would mark the fourth straight year a program from Ahwatukee has made it to the state championship that started with Desert Vista’s run to the Division I title in 2011.
“We are going to do what we do,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “We have some really good players. The offensive line is very good and we have some talented backs. We have a physical and fast defense. Are we going to be good enough to do it?
“We don’t know yet.”
Should Mountain Pointe, which has the longest winning streak in Division I at 14 games, repeat or Desert Vista rebound from a 4-6 season in a big way and find a way to still be playing the last week of the postseason at University of Phoenix Stadium it becomes a pretty impressive run from one area.
The Chandler district has been represented six straight years by one team — Hamilton — and 11 of the last 13 years by the Huskies.
It’s a program that continues and will always define the standard in Division I football, but no other program from the district has ever made it to a title game.
The last time another district made at least four straight appearances came in 1999-2003 when Mesa had a good run with Mesa Mountain View (1999, 2002) book ending two titles and Red Mountain winning back-to-back championships in 2000 and 2001.
Cycles come and go.
The Mesa district used to run Division I with at least one school qualifying for the DI championship games 20 times since 1976. Twice two Mesa schools qualified for the title game with the last occurrence happening in 2000 when Red Mountain beat Westwood.
Desert Ridge is now the strongest program of the bunch, but most of the teams from Mesa are struggling to be competitive with the elite.
Mesa is no longer the hot spot where families migrate. It shifted to Chandler, Tempe and even Gilbert in the mid 2000s and now the Mesa feeder systems are no longer filled with brother after brother from the same family to stay competitive.
It left a void on the football field that has thus far been filled by Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista.
The Pride opens the year in Las Vegas on Saturday against Reed out of Sparks, Nev., while Desert Vista waits until the following week and hosts Basha on Aug. 29.
“Opening with Basha is a great test for us and you really learn a lot in the first game,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said. “You find out what you have to fix and where you are at.
So let the 14-week process begin.
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