Ah, initial rankings. Why do you burden me so?
The first set of football rankings are always the most difficult. Coaching changes (Red Mountain, Dobson, Highland, etc.), transfers (too many to count), scandals (Hamilton), injuries (Mountain Pointe’s Matthew Pola-Mao) and the past history of program shape ideas.
So you rank them as you see fit, but it is still a crap shoot.
And this year is a little different for me in that I had a 15-week period where I was in between writing jobs. I was driving a fork lift and loading brick pavers in a swamp cooler that worked about as often as an onside kick.
During that time I essentially turned off Twitter, and tuned out high schools news for the first time in more than two decades. I’d check in here and there, but mostly blocked it all out.
In other words, I am laying the ground work for why the picks below might be a bit askew until we can start seeing results and head-to-head action, but make no mistake I am very grateful to have this opportunity once again.
The first 6A Conference top 15 has nationally-ranked Chandler on top with state runner-up Mountain Pointe second. Loved Perry last year and expecting the Pumas to take the next step in 2017, while Red Mountain has my favorite player to watch in Lance Lawson along with a new head coach in Mike Peterson, the former defensive coordinator.
After that it’s just throwing darts.
And since this is a Mesa-centric news site, there will be a weekly Mesa Seven rankings as well.
Red Mountain made the semifinals last year and that just might have opened the flood gates when it comes to confidence and expectations, while Skyline, which won the East Valley Region title last year, will continue to be that overlooked program, despite winning 32 games over the last three seasons, that knocks off teams when counted out.
The Mountain Lions are the top team to start.
“When we were in camp and running the hill 14 times for the 14 weeks of the season, I reminded them about Week 13 last year,” Peterson said. “We were so close to getting to Week 14. There were three plays that made the difference. If one of those plays goes our way we play in the final game of the year.”
Desert Ridge, which plays in the Central Region, is always stronger at the end of the season under Jeremy Hathcock, and the Jaguars should be good at the start behind Stanford commit Donjae Logan. Mountain View looks to up last year’s seven wins behind wide receiver Jacobby Dinwiddie and quarterback Brandon Nunez, the son of former major-league pitcher Edwin Nunez.
Westwood, Dobson and Mesa are a little less established with all three going through recent coaching changes.
The Jackrabbits head up the next tier with a chance to grow into a team that can finish in the top half of the region, while Dobson and Westwood need to clean up in the non-region portion of the schedule because wins against the East Valley teams might be difficult.
“Our offense and defense both started slow,” Mesa coach Kapi Sikahema said of their scrimmage against Desert Edge and Westview. “After the scouts left we opened up the playbook a little and the offense was marching effectively. Then our defense went on a rampage because I blitzed the house.
“Our personnel is so much better than last year.”
Without further ado here are the first set of MyNewsMesa.com rankings:
- Mountain Pointe
- Red Mountain
- Desert Ridge
- Desert Vista
- Mountain View
- Cesar Chavez
- Boulder Creek
The Mesa Seven
- Red Mountain – Difficult non-conference schedule will be tough to navigate.
- Skyline – Coach Paffumi will dig deep this year after the loss of mentor Jesse Parker.
- Desert Ridge – If sophomore class grows up fast, look out.
- Mountain View – The “chase” as coach Mike Fell puts it, is still on for Toros.
- Mesa – Year two with this coaching staff will go much smoother.
- Dobson – Pete Wahlheim means the Mustangs wills have a power running game.
- Westwood – First priority is to get the numbers up at every level.
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.