August 30, 2006 - Willie Dudley believes his Marana High School football team can challenge for a state title. So, too, do the coaches from Canyon Del Oro, Ironwood Ridge, Pusch Ridge and, well, practically all of the teams from the Northwest and Foothills.

The thing is, obviously, only one can win their respective classes. The question is: who will win it all?

We could play the odds in predicting who will win it this year, but that may not bode well for anyone - especially the Northwest and Foothills' only Class 5A school, Mountain View.

It's been 26 years since a Southern Arizona team (Amphitheater High School) won a 5A state title. Teams in Phoenix are just too big and loaded.

Tucson metro-area teams have fared much better in the Class 4A winning three of the last five state titles. But still, it's been a long time since a Northwest team claimed a football title. The last was Mountain View in 1993 when it was still in the 4A.

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge and Pusch Ridge have never won a state title, due mostly in part to being young schools. CDO has won the 4A twice, but not since 1977. Believe it or not, the Northwest team with the most state titles is Marana, a now-beleaguered program that hasn't won since 1968.

Taking the heart-felt route to predicting the football future is no good either. It violates rule No. 1 of not only pre-season picks but gambling and fantasy football: Never choose with your heart. Don't pick a team because said team is "due," either.

Falling short of a championship isn't the sign of bad year, however. And this football season, promises to be nothing short of exciting as more teams than ever could potentially challenge for a region title - which I suppose is the next best thing to winning state.

Predicting the future is impossible. If I could do it I'd be living in Las Vegas. Of course, I open myself up to never getting interviews again from some teams but here goes:

Canyon Del Oro High School: The Dorados have been the team to beat in the Northwest, winning two straight region titles. CDO will be strong again this year, despite losing starting quarterback Ryan Lush and running back Peter Romero.

Once again, the team will be fast and exciting to watch and should cruise through its schedule until the end when it meets up against Ironwood Ridge and Sabino. The Dorados make the playoffs but their streak of region titles comes to an end in the last game against rival Ironwood Ridge.

My Prediction: CDO 7-3, 3-2 4A Sonoran Region

Catalina Foothills High School: The departure of quarterback Joe Arreguin, who jumped ship to Cienega High School this summer, will hurt the Falcons, who finished 2005 winning four of its last six games. In Arreguin's place is Cole Mayfield, a quality quarterback, who will be aided by a solid run game. Foothills is young in areas and needs to establish its confidence if it is to return to the state playoffs.

The Falcons shot at redemption against Cienega falls short, but Foothills once again squeaks into the playoffs thanks to a strong region record.

My Prediction: Catalina Foothills 6-4, 4-2 4A Kino Region

Ironwood Ridge High School: The Nighthawks are a favorite to win the 4A Sonoran Region. Ever since the school has had a senior class it has had a quality team but this may very well be Ironwood Ridge's best.

Bobby Farley should lead the region in passing. If the Nighthawks can replace the void left by running back Dakota McQuay, then this will be the year the program gets its first playoff win. A win over CDO in the last week of the season will clinch the region and do wonders for the team's confidence heading into the post-season.

My Prediction: Ironwood Ridge 7-3, 4-1 4A Sonoran Region

Marana High School: The Tigers have only won five games in the last two years but things are changing for Willie Dudley's team. A lighter schedule will certainly help build the confidence this program sorely needs.

If Marana can eke out a few wins before quarterback Robert Rowe and right guard Manny Haley return to the lineup, Marana good be in decent shape heading into what will be an unforgiving region schedule. It takes a monumental win over Rincon in week eight but Marana gets back to .500.

My Prediction: Marana 5-5, 2-3 4A Sonoran Region

Mountain View: When you talk about potential, no other team may have more than the Mountain Lions. Coach Wayne Jones has one of the best running tandems in the state in Jared Hiller and Dan Moore. If they can get solid play out of first year quarterback Cole Westerman and his receivers Mountain View could be in for a stellar season.

Weighing against Mountain View is a tough out-of-region schedule and what could be an even tougher region slate.

My Prediction: Mountain View 5-5, 2-3 5A Southern Region

Pusch Ridge Christian Academy: Would you believe me if I told you I predicted the Lions would lose their season opener to Scottsdale Christian 30-21? Don't believe me.

Chris Gonzalez looked great in his debut, debunking my theory that the first-year QB would struggle this year. If Gonzalez can keep it going, and early indications are that he can, look for Pusch Ridge to return to a high seed in the playoffs.

Pusch Ridge lost a lot of weapons from last year's 2A Central winning team. They won't go undefeated, obviously, but the Lions should again come out on top in the region.

My Prediction: Pusch Ridge 6-3, 4-1 2A Central Region

I'm ready for your slings and arrows. E-mail me your predictions and why you think I'm an idiot and we'll publish them at the end of the season with the actual results.

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