Open Division Selection Surprises and Reactions

Arizona Sports News online

Open Division Seeding

Why have an Open Division?

One of the most common questions asked by parents and fans. As long as open enrollment exists, so will the Open Division. The Open Division has given teams like Saguaro the chance to prove they could be the best in the state, even if they are a 4A or 5A school. 

“It adds a lot of prestige around the country,” Hamilton head coach Michael Zdebski said. “That it’s the best eight, well really the best six teams now.” 

Many media members and coaches have expressed that the top six seeds all deserve to be in the Open but they expected to see different programs in the seven and eight seed. The algorithm was addressed in an AIA Media Day that took place on Aug. 12 ahead of the regular season. The multiplier is a new addition to the AIA algorithm this season, based on the new multiplier Cactus still would have made the top eight teams last season but ALA Queen Creek would not have. 

ALA Queen Creek: The Future is Now

This season, the Patriots have lived by the motto, “The Future is Now.” The motto represents their rise and success from 3A to 5A over the last four years. Head coach Ty Detmer believes that the 5A division is the sweet spot for the Patriots, introducing them to the high level competition the program was seeking. The team boasts 27 seniors, all eager to prove their ability to compete with the best of the best. The Patriots will face the Basha Bears in the first round of the Open, a program that sits just 10 minutes east of the ALA Queen Creek campus. 

Ty Detmer and the Patriots expected to be competing for a 5A State Championship this year. On a recent edition of Bleacher Talk, he said he thought things were playing out just as he anticipated and expressed he believed they have a shot of winning the 5A this season.

“The Open to me, if all 6A teams are going to be in it after this year, with the season that Desert Mountain has had, Notre Dame Prep, and us, and Horizon and Higley it’s probably going to be a 6A State Championship,” Detmer said. “Probably no need for the Open going forward but it’s also nice for the other schools to know we’re playing for a 5A State Championship.”

This is the Patriots second consecutive Open Division appearance. 


Highland: The Biggest Surprise

The biggest discussions around the Open seeding has surrounded Highland not making it into the top eight. 

Zach Alvira – The Hawks are deserving of the opportunity and how they didn’t make it is crazy to me. ALA is a team I thought all year could be one of the 5A teams to make it. Notre Dame the other. But I didn’t think the formula would actually work in either of those two team’s favor — if that’s what we want to call it.

Highland closes the regular season with a 7-3 record. The Hawks two in-state losses came against Hamilton and Saguaro, teams that will go head-to-head in the first round of the playoffs. Highlands defense contained Hamilton to one touchdown having lost the competitive defensive battle, 10-8 in Week 5. 

Zach Alvira – I really think the other team that you could make an argument for is Casteel and again, Notre Dame. Corona’s schedule wasn’t strong enough, in my opinion. Casteel is a lot like Highland last year with It’s only losses coming against some of the better teams in the state. Notre Dame’s only loss was to Chandler. So those two, in my opinion, should’ve gotten the nod over Corona. But the Aztecs are a contender in 6A. 


The 3 and 4 Seed: Chandler Above Hamilton

Following their 19-17 win over rival Chandler, the Huskies anticipated a higher seed than the Wolves. Hamilton earned the four seed in the Open Division and will play Saguaro in the first round. 

Michael Zdebski – I think the AIA should disclose their formula. They say there’s no human element and if there is, that’s fine. We already played Centennial and then Chandler already played Saguaro so if they looked at that and thought it could be a more interesting matchup that’s fine. Winning that game Thursday solidified that we’d have a home game. You play who you’re told to play and you move forward. 

Despite the unexpected seeding result the Huskies are prepared to play in one of the most interesting quarterfinal games. 

Zdebski – They (Saguaro) play a very good defense and the quarterback he is their offense. They’re a running team and Dampier is the one that makes everything go.

Zach Alvira – I’m most excited for the Saguaro-Hamilton matchup. Cody Cameron said it best in a Twitter Spaces on Saturday, those two have developed a bit of a rivalry as of late. They played each other tough on ESPN a few years ago and clashed in the semifinals last year. Devon Dampier and his explosiveness both through the air and on the ground against Hamilton’s defense will be a lot of fun. And of course, Beckham Pellant has been great for the Huskies. But if he gets the nod again and Roch Cholowsky is still hurt, I’ll be interested to see how he responds in the Open Division Playoffs. It’s a whole new season and I can’t wait.