Teams have apparently been selected to play in the 2014 edition of the Sollenberger Kick-off Classic, which will once again signal the start of the next high-school football season in Arizona. But the selection of one of the Arizona teams indicates a continued move farther away from a tradition that had been established just a few years ago.
According to an article in the Las Vegas Sun, Brophy Prep will play Bishop Gorman High School and Mountain Pointe High will take on Reed High. Brophy and Mountain Pointe will represent Arizona, while Gorman and Reed will host the Phoenix schools in Nevada.
When the event began in 2006 as a tribute to Barry Sollenberger, a respected prep sports historian in Arizona that passed away the previous year, it consisted of a a game between two top in-state teams, but was soon changed to include a Nevada team and intended to match an Arizona Division I state champion with the Nevada big-school state champion. A couple of years ago, a second game was added to the program to showcase talent from the small schools.
In 2012, Nevada broke the mold by sending a couple of teams that were not state champions. Then last year, Arizona put up a Division I runner-up, Mountain Pointe High School, and a Division II semi-final team, Salpointe Catholic, and the game was moved to Nevada for just the second time in the eight-year history of the event.
Mountain Pointe is back this year as the defending state champion in Division I, but the selection of Brophy is a little surprising.
Brophy, a small Catholic school in central Phoenix, is a traditional power in the state, but didn’t win a title last season, weren’t the runner-up, and didn’t even make it to the semi-finals. The Broncos finished the year with a 5-7 record and were eliminated in the state playoffs when Desert Ridge High School beat them by 20 points in the quarterfinals. And then Desert Ridge managed just nine points against Mountain Pointe to lose in the semis.
The Broncos got off to a rocky start in 2013, losing their starting quarterback in the third game of the season and going 1-4 to start the season. They averaged just 12 points a game in those first five contests, but rebounded to close out the season by averaging 30 points in their final five games.
But they were 3-3 over the final six games of a sub-.500 season. Hamilton High, also a perennial power house, was the state title runner-up and posted an 11-3 record. Chandler High, which made it to the semis, went 10-3, and Desert Ridge went 11-2.
However, the 5-7 Broncos will be traveling to Nevada for the Aug. 22 game (Mountain Pointe will play Reed the next day).
Brophy has met Gorman once before in the Sollenberger, beating them in 2007. Actually, the Gaels haven’t fared well in this event, winning just once in four appearances. Mountain Pointe beat them last year.
Arizona’s governing body for high school sports, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), partners with the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) to select which teams to invite each year. Bishop Gorman is a natural to get the invite since they draw national attention when they play after winning the last five state big-school titles and generally being nationally-ranked entering each season.
Why they want to tangle with an Arizona team to start the season is anybody’s guess, considering they’ve lost three of the four games they’ve played in the Sollenberger. Maybe they just want to keep doing it until they get it right.
It’s obvious the selection committee didn’t want to see back-to-back meetings between the two schools, so Mountain Pointe was paired with Reed, which is a northern Nevada team that has won the Northern Region championship the past three seasons. Another Arizona school had to be selected to take on the Gaels.
So Brophy got the nod. Now the Broncos will be expected to field the kind of team that beat the Gaels seven years ago – not the kind that stumbled through last season.