The first stab at football rankings are as scientific as pinning a tail on a donkey and probably shouldn’t come out until week three or so.
But what fun would that be?
So we’ll try to see through the blindfold, two weeks before every team plays a game, as best as we can and take a shot at which teams will make up the upper echelon of Division I in 2014.
1. Mountain Pointe. Don’t worry about the 14 starters needing to be replaced. The Pride has replenished its lineup with plenty of talent like quarterback Garvin Alston, safety Isaiah Palo-Mao, wide receiver Tyree Shivers and running back Tyrek Cross to go along with holdovers Austin Cronen at linebacker, center Colin Lambdin and linebacker Keondre Churchwell.
Mountain Pointe isn’t the consensus No. 1 by any means even though the Pride is nationally ranked. There are questions and other challengers, but the Pride will be there in the end per usual (four semifinal appearances in five seasons) and until a game is the played they are the state champion.
2. Chandler. The Wolves got over one stumbling block last year in beating Hamilton for the first time in the history of the series dating back to 1998. There are many who think the next one to fall is the fact that Chandler has never made the state championship.
The talent is there to get it done, but will Chandler be able to finally put it all together? At the outset, the answer is yes as the likes of quarterback Bryce Perkins, running back Chase Lucas and defensive tackle J.W. Windsor and defensive end Kalif Roberts have a chance to take the Wolves over the top.
3. Hamilton. It is hard to put a program that has a .950 winning percentage (194-20) for its history third on this list, but the Huskies are coming off their first three-loss season so clearly something has gone awry (kidding).
This is the first time since about 2000 the Huskies are left out of the top two conversation so it will be interesting to see how the Huskies respond. Chances are they will thrive like every other Hamilton team has done under John Wrenn or Steve Belles. Defensive studs Caleb Peart and Garrett Rand will make sure the Huskies are heard before it is all said and done.
4. Pinnacle. The Pioneers have a toughness about them that Dana Zupke has instilled over the years. The jump to Division I in 2011 has only brought Pinnacle to a higher level instead of the stumble some expected. The struggle has been the postseason — average score of defeat in postseason has been 49.3-13.7 — but quarterback Brian Lewerke and company just might close the gap this time around.
5. Horizon. The question surrounding the Huskies is whether or not they can duplicate last year’s crazy offensive output (6,047 yards, 74 touchdowns). The trigger man, Dalton Sneed, is back at quarterback so chances are Horizon will again be an offensive juggernaut much to the dismay of the defense, which spent an awful lot of time on the field a year ago and led to allowing 49.3 in its three defeats last season.
6. Brophy. A brutal schedule might keep them down in the power rankings all year long, but much like last season when the Broncos postseason comes around they will be worthy of at least a top eight ranking. Last year’s 4-6 regular season (5-7 overall) struggle didn’t sit well and the Broncos will rebound well this year behind junior running back Ryan Velez and junior defensive lineman Connor Murphy.
7. Westview. The West side is represented per usual by the Knights but this time with a new head honcho in longtime assistant Joe Parker as he takes over for Jeff Bowen. Parker has talked openly about keeping the Wing-T tradition alive and with Jalen Johnson back it is no wonder. The schedule isn’t as daunting as others so Westview should stay among the top 10 all year.
8. Desert Ridge. This ranking would change completely if the Morrison brothers — Taren and Tarek — were still part of the program (as of print reports they weren’t with the team), but don’t think for an instant that the Jaguars are going to be decimated by their expected departure. In fact, don’t be surprised if Coach Jeremy Hathcock has the program rallying and moving forward without much of a setback.
9. Desert Vista. The Thunder lost almost as many games last year (six) as the previous three years combined (32-7). Is it a trend or a blip? Hard to tell. With the talent that runs through Ahwatukee and a coaching staff with a good track record, it is easy to believe Desert Vista will rebound but the embarrassing losses to Boulder Creek and Corona del Sol might be a better barometer. An opening week win against Basha would recharge the program.
10. Basha. The Bears are in the midst of a transition at the coaching position with a long-time assistant (Gerald Todd) after having big-time coaches in Tim McBurney and Bernie Busken. The program has lost a lot of talent to neighboring schools higher on this list but the Bears can still make a push into the top half of Division I although the schedule might make it tough.
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