Willcox is 4-1 after staring down a possible 2-3 scenario, but the true test of this year’s football varsity lies ahead in Thatcher on Friday.
The Cowboys failed to up their record to 5-1 when San Carlos (0-5) asked for a forfeit this weekend on the heels of 10 player ineligibilities announced earlier on Friday that prevented them from fielding a team.
The AIA’s latest outrage states that forfeits do not count as wins because “there is no result to do an analysis on,” said AIA spokesman Brian Bolitho in a letter to Willcox High Athletic Director Tammy Hall.
“The seedings are not based on receiving points for a particular outcome, but are based on analyzing thousands of games where opponents ‘opponents’ opponents’ opponents’ results are taken into account.”
It will take a math expert to weed out that explanation and the formula used by the AIA and its partner, MaxPreps. The Range News hopes to find that expert soon to help us also understand the rest of the explanation from Bolitho that includes the statement “the new seedings are optimal because they rely solely on math and are not vulnerable to a point system that does not account for context. In your case, the forfeit has no negative effect on your seeding.”
As it shouldn’t. But why the forfeit and inherent victory accompanying it shouldn’t have a positive effect on the Willcox seeding is a baffling component that is missing in his statement.
Garcia doesn’t get the opportunity to dwell on the outrageous as his team has an important game to play next.
“It (the forfeit) gave us an extra day of practice and an opportunity to scout Thatcher,” said head coach Joe Garcia. “But it wasn’t a great one to watch” as Thatcher cruised past Safford 51-7.
“The kids were very disappointed (about the forfeit), though. They had worked hard at practice all week and it was a bummer not to get to see the fruits of your labor,” said Garcia.
Some fruits show, though, in a 4-1 record that could be worse if you harken back to week 2 and the 22-0 loss to Benson. That setback seemed to expose the Cowboys as a weaker than expected team that could falter in upcoming games against Safford and Tombstone before gimmes against Tanque Verde and San Carlos.
But The Cowboys figured out how to break Safford in a 37-10 late runaway and tame Tombstone in a slow-starting tilt that turned into a shocking 53-0 rout.
Suddenly Willcox has a three-game mid-season win streak capped by the Tanque Verde win but subtract a possible fourth win thanks to the San Carlos forfeit.
“4-1 looks pretty good,” said the coach. “It’s a huge difference between 4-1 and 2-3. We still have a long way to go, though.”
They could go right into the top two of their section if they knock off Thatcher (5-1), whose only loss is to top division seed Morenci (6-0).
“It could be a big win in terms of seeding for the state play-offs,” said Garcia. “To be honest, though, with Max Preps running the power points, I have no real idea of what’s going on.”
Last year’s power-ranking formula from the AIA was criticized as too simplistic and inaccurate, leading to the jump to a website formula this year that no coach will admit he can follow or even find.
Willcox won’t make a significant jump from their current number-11 ranking unless they knock off number-7 Thatcher this week.
“They have a different head coach and different offensive philosophy” from the team that beat Willcox by one point last year on a last second safety, said Garcia.
“Thatcher runs shotgun spread and hurry-up, a new kind of fast-pace offense we haven’t seen before in our conference,” said the coach, “and they’re balanced enough to where they run and throw very well, too.”
Willcox has a new head coach, too, with Garcia taking over but carrying on an offense similar to the one run last year by Jim Hughes.
“Morenci used their size to beat Thatcher (37-22) earlier this year,” said Garcia. “We do not have that advantage. So we have to capitalize on mistakes, play solid football on both sides of the ball and minimize our mistakes.”
It was a mistake by last year’s Willcox quarterback that led to the game winning points for Thatcher, and that individual is now a Thatcher transfer player. But Coach Hughes took the brunt of the blame for his play call in that game, and Jacob Drage, the player, is not a quarterback this year in Thatcher’s scheme.
“We don’t go into who’s on their team, anyway,” said Garcia. “We just want to play hard because it’s Thatcher. Both teams are pretty intense and it’s been back and forth the past couple of years.”
“The San Carlos forfeit gave us a little more time to heal a couple of bumps and bruises. Everybody’s healthy and everybody’s eligible, so no excuses. Thatcher is a tough place to play because they’re always such a tough team and they take football pretty serious down there, as do we.”