Tucson High School has been the site of some amazing state semifinal games recently.
Two years ago, Cienega rallied from an early 14-0 deficit against Ironwood Ridge to win 24-21, improve to 13-0 and advance to the Division II state championship game.
The year before that, Ka’Deem Carey scored twice in the final 2 minutes 17 seconds to help the undefeated Dorados rally to beat Cienega 28-24 and reach the state final for the third time in four years.
“Any time there’s a semifinal game here, there’s a huge crowd,” Tucson High coach Justin Argraves said. “The only time you see it that packed is graduation night.”
But suddenly, the historic Rollin T. Gridley Stadium isn’t good enough.
Tucson High has hosted five state semifinal games since it had synthetic turf installed in 2006, but Marana High School — and not Tucson High — will host tonight’s Division II state semifinal between top-seeded Salpointe Catholic and No. 12 Glendale Deer Valley.
The reason: Marana has brand new turf, making it arguably the best field in town. Tigers coach Andy Litten said the community is very excited to be taking part; he expects to draw 3,000 to 4,000 fans depending on the weather.
“It’s a great promotion for our program and it really lets our district showcase where they put their money,” Litten said. “We’re a football community and having a playoff game there is pretty exciting.”
Naturally, Argraves would have liked to host tonight’s game. He said the snack bar usually brings in around $6,000, all of which goes toward the home site.
Marana will be more convenient for Deer Valley and its fans getting off Interstate 10, Arizona Interscholastic Association tournament coordinator Ron Halbach said.
However, the site is inconvenient for just about everyone else in the Tucson area. Chances are some fans that would have made the trip to Tucson High won’t be making the trip to Marana.
It’s another confusing turn from the AIA. Halbach said all semifinal games are played in the area of the higher seed, and that sites are picked based on the playing surface, seating capacity and parking. He wouldn’t confirm the other possible options in the area or say if Marana will become one of the main neutral fields in the future.
“A lot of things are taken into consideration for a lot of different semifinal games,” Halbach said. “I feel confident Marana High School is well prepared for it.”
Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said he isn’t bothered by the trek, even though it will likely be a 50-minute commute. Tucson High, meanwhile, is a 10-minute drive from Salpointe.
“Marana is a brand new football field and it’s a fast track. I can’t wait to get there,” Bene said. “We’re just happy to be there. You could spray- paint some lines on a horse patch and we’d still be there.”
Deer Valley in postseason after AIA reverses ruling
The AIA came down hard on Deer Valley in September, after it learned that the Skyhawks allowed two transfers from Peoria Centennial to play on the team while they were still ineligible. The AIA banned all Deer Valley teams from the playoffs for the entire school year. Just over a month later, and after the school took in-house corrective action, the ruling was reversed: All sports — including football — were allowed to take part in the postseason.
The AIA may not be done with Deer Valley, however: The football program is still being investigated to see whether it also committed recruiting violations.
Chargers coach Ruhf resigns
Laurence Ruhf has resigned as Cholla’s football coach after four seasons. In 2009, his first year, Cholla went 6-4 and nearly made it to the playoffs for just the second time since 1989. The Chargers had losing records in each of Ruhf’s next three seasons.
Ruhf, who also teaches at Cholla, said he and his wife are expecting a child within the next month so he wanted to step back and take some time for family. He plans to get back into coaching but isn’t sure exactly when or where.
“I’ll definitely be a football coach somewhere again,” Ruhf said. “Coaching is in my blood, I love the game.”
Sabino lineman Mike receives two more Division I offers
Sabino tackle Andrew Mike received offers from Arkansas and Virginia this week, but said he isn’t in any hurry to pick a college. The 6-foot-7-inch, 290-pound senior is rated as a four-star recruit by the Scout.com recruiting service; he has 15 Division I offers.
Mike’s top three choices are the Arizona Wildcats, Vanderbilt and Washington, but he doesn’t expect to make a decision until late January. He will visit Washington next weekend, the UA in December and Vanderbilt in mid-January.
“I definitely want to learn the most I can about every school,” Mike said. “I’m looking for the one that I’ll fall in love with when I go there.”
Ironwood Ridge star Wortley signs letter while on visit
Ironwood Ridge girls basketball player Casey Wortley signed to play at Iona while on an official visit in New Rochelle, N.Y., earlier this week. Nighthawks coach Nikki Simpson said Wortley is the first I-Ridge player to sign with a Division I school. She averaged 7.7 points a game and 4.3 rebounds as a junior.