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1:27 AM Mon, Dec. 10th

Prep football magazine fires some shots in dark

Every year when Barry Sollenberger puts out his high school football magazine, "Barry Sollenberger's 2003 Phoenix Metro Football," there are suprises.

If anyone in the state has a handle on prep football it's Sollenberger , but it's always a surprise how little he knows about what happens outside the Phoenix area.

With most of the regions in state being hit with some degree of realignment (which happens every two years in Arizona), it is a particularly difficult year to figure out who will do what in which region.

One thing is certain.

Sollenberger picks a Top 20 poll for the 5A in his magazine and it will very nearly mirror the first poll the Associated Press will come out with later this month.

That's because none of the sports writers who vote in the AP poll will have seen anyone play and the majority of voters are in the Phoenix area anyway.

That's also why I make it a point to use my vote in the AP poll every week all through the season.

Last year Mesa Mountain View wasn't that highly thought of through the first three quarters of the season.

They finished the regular season ranked No.1 and went on to win the state championship.

This year they enter the season ranked No.

1 by Sollenberger and I'd bet every dollar I've got they'll start this season on top in the AP poll as well.

There's good reason for it.

The Toros a 5A state record 602 points last year, racked up 5,429 yards of offense en route to a 14-0 finish and the state title.

They finished ranked No.

17 in the nation.

The scary part is that quarterback Max Hall is back along with 31 other lettermen.

Interestingly, Mountain View opens against the team that was ranked No.

1 or 2 all last year and is picked by Sollenberger as the No.

2 team this year, Chandler Hamilton.

Big school football promises to be interesting right from the opening kickoff this year.

Fortunately, Kingman won't face Mesa Mountain View this season.

The teams played last year at Mesa and the Bulldogs were thumped 73-0.

That wasn't the biggest thrashing the Toros dished out last year.

They beat traditional rival Mesa Dobson, usually a strong program, 74-0.

The down side of that for the Bulldogs is they face Hamilton in their home opener Sept.

19.

This year's Bulldogs team will be much improved from last year's 2-8 team, but it may take a while to be able to tell.

They open against Yuma Cibola, a team that finished 5-5 last year and the Raiders only have six returning starters.

But, Cibola's junior varsity went 8-1 last year so even if the players don't have a lot of varsity experience, they have a lot of winning experience in the same system.

Don't count the Bulldogs out against Cibola.

This will be a much better Kingman team that takes the field this year.

Although the Bulldogs lack depth, the starting squad is very well drilled this year and isn't likely to make the critical easy turnovers early in the game that knocked them out of several games last year.

Next up will be Phoenix Alhambra, another team that went 5-5 last year.

Depth will be a big problem for Alhambra as well, but Lions feature Rodney Overton at halfback who has great speed.

He may not be able to go full bore all the time though because he plays both ways (on defense he's a safety).

After the Bulldogs meet Hamilton they get another shot at Phoenix Goldwater.

Goldwater basically stole the second to the last game last year from the Bulldogs.

They edged the Bulldogs 21-20 by scoring with 11 second to go in the game.

It was the first win of the season for Goldwater and they closed out with a win over Deer Valley to finish 2-8.

Goldwater was in the Northwest Region with Kingman last year, but the Bulldogs, along with former Northwest Region teams Peoria and Ironwood are now in the Desertwest Region.

Deer Valley is another former regional foe that is on the Bulldogs' schedule.

The Skyhawks finished 3-7 last year and return many skill position players and had a JV that went 8-1.

They could be much improved.

The Bulldogs' open Desertwest Region play against Ironwood, which faced Mesa Mountain View in the 5A state title game last year.

The Eagles lost 50-8.

Ironwood lost its quarterback and halfback to graduation and most of their offense and head coach Chuck Esquivel stepped down.

It will be homecoming when Ironwood visits Kingman and depending on whether the Bulldogs can stay healthy and how well the crowd can pump them up, it could be a joyous homecoming for a change.

Sollenberger runs down every team in the Phoenix Metro area and all the teams in the region that they play.

He does pick the Bulldogs to finish last in the Desertwest Region, even if he calls it the Southwest Region.

But, it would be hard not to pick Kingman well down on the list.

Three teams in the region finished with 10 or more wins last year and Peoria, picked to finish No.

1, finished 8-3 and returns just about everybody.

Ironwood finished 11-3, Tolleson Westview went 10-2, Tolleson finished 12-2.

That leaves Sunrise Mountain (3-7).

The Mustangs are in their first year in the 5A and went 3-7 in the Wells Fargo Region of the 4A last year.

Still, they're picked above the Bulldogs by Sollenberger.

One thing you have to remember about Sollenberger — he only sees teams in Phoenix and he only goes to the "good" games.

His whole magazine is based on sort of the same thing that my AP poll vote is based on — history.

His magazine is a great reference guide, but his picks, especially when it comes to schools outside of Phoenix, are strictly guesswork.

To see for yourself get a copy of "Barry Sollenberger's 2003 Phoenix Metro Football."

It is available through Phoenix Metro Publications at P.O.

Box 27564, Tempe, AZ, 85285 or through their Web site, www.phoenixmetrofootball.com, or call (480) 967-7256.

Ric Swats is a sports writer for the Miner.

He can be reached at 753-6397, extension 223 or by e-mail at rswats@kingmandailyminer.

Com.