By Kevin Cloe
Although it’s a longshot, Wickenburg High School head football coach Mike Mitchell last week mentioned the state playoffs for his Wranglers.
The topic of discussion was Kingman Academy’s cancellation of its game against the Wranglers last Friday night due to having a lack of enough players to field a team.
It was the second time this season Kingman Academy has had to cancel a game for the same reason. The first cancellation was apparently due to player academic eligibility issues and last week’s was reportedly due to illnesses.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the governing body of Arizona high school sports, listed those two instances as cancellations instead of forfeits.
That left Coach Mitchell wondering why his team’s scheduled game against Kingman Academy isn’t considered a forfeit, which would give the Wranglers a victory and the Tigers another loss. Instead, it apparently will be recorded as “no game” for each team. A search of the AIA bylaws didn’t discover policies for cancellations and/or forfeits.
“If we end up 5-4 in a group of teams (with a chance) to get into the playoffs, we’ll appeal that we should be 6-4,” Coach Mitchell said regarding his Wranglers’ season record. “Where I had coached before, it would be considered a forfeit with a 2-0 score.
“We had a good week of practice,” he added. “We learned about it (the cancellation) just hours before (Thursday) practice, so we got an early start preparing for Chino Valley.”
Instead of going to Kingman to battle Kingman Academy, the Wranglers’ second-year coach drove to Kingman anyway Friday night — to scout the Chino Valley-Kingman game, the Wranglers’ next two opponents. Kingman defeated Chino Valley, 20-16.
The Wranglers (2-4) need to finish the regular season ranked at No. 16 or higher by the AIA in order to qualify for the state 3A Conference playoffs, and they were ranked at No. 26 prior to the scheduled Kingman Academy game. The question is how high the Wranglers could climb in the rankings even if they win all three of their final regular season games against No. 31-ranked Chino Valley this Friday, 28th-ranked Kingman next week and 11th-ranked River Valley in the regular season finale.
Chino Valley has started this season with a 2-6 record, winning against 36th-ranked Tuba City and 28th-ranked (2A) Camp Verde and losing to fourth-ranked (2A) Parker (30-23), No. 12-ranked Valley Christian (46-0), No. 9-ranked Arizona College Prep (42-0), No. 10-ranked Odyssey Institute (41-14), No. 29-ranked Kingman Academy (27-26) and No. 28 Kingman. Parker (6-1) defeated the Wranglers earlier this season 36-6.
The Cougars have used three different players at quarterback this season and have averaged more yards passing (about 130 yards) than running (about 105 yards) so far this year.
The Wranglers, meanwhile, are expected to use sophomore Calogero “Ro” DiCamillo at quarterback, with former junior quarterback Bryson Alder being the primary ball carrier as running back. Alder is averaging more than 100 yards per game on the ground to lead the team, and he leads the entire 3A Conference with seven pass interceptions as a defensive back.
Junior linebacker Clay Watson (60 tackles), senior defensive end Wyatt Grantham (48 tackles and four quarterback sacks), and senior defensive back Michael Flinn (40 tackles) join Alder as the leaders of the Wranglers’ defense.
The opening kickoff at Chino Valley this Friday, Oct. 18, is scheduled for 7 p.m.