Empire ends era as a “small school” with playoff loss to Snowflakeby Andy Morales on Nov. 11, 2012, under Sports
Empire’s loss to Division IV opponent Snowflake in the second round Saturday ended an era for the Ravens. No longer seen as a “new” school that is building a program by the AIA and their opponents, it will be the last time the school competes in the “lower” divisions for football.
Since opening in the fall of 2005, head coach Jorge Mendivil has quickly built his program into one of the powers of the old 3A Conference and the newer D-IV. He had made the state playoffs five years straight, only missing his first two years which is understandable with a new school competing with district sister school Cienega for talent.
Cienega is the big brother literally down the street since both schools are located exactly three miles away from each other on Mary Ann Cleveland Way. (I always felt that would make for an interesting cross country event).
Cienega gets most of the local and state media attention but the Ravens have earned a piece of the action as well. Mendivil started out 6-13 but has gone 40-18 since for a 46-13 mark, including a 10-2 campaign in the fall of 2009.
They have been to the second round three times with their best shot coming in 2009 but the AIA makes higher seeds travel to the Phoenix area after the first round for the smaller schools and they found themselves traveling to play 14 seed Florence even though they were the 6 seed and they lost that battle.
The program used to define itself against rival Safford where the school took and early beating by the Bulldogs to go 0-2 but they dispatched them by winning four straight including two poundings in 2009 by a combined score of 65-25.
The AIA has now placed Empire in Division III for the next two years (2013-2015) based on enrollment and not on ability. D-III is not the same as the old 3A. With 3A, there was still a 5A-I, 5A-II, 4A-I and 4A-II ahead of them. No longer.
As a test for how they will stack up in the new D-III placement, the Ravens have played D-III power Sabino twice over the last two years and lost by a combined 121-0. If they replaced their old measure of how they were doing against Safford with how they are doing against Sabino then their future in D-III does not look too rewarding for next year.
Empire appealed their D-III placement but the AIA committee in charge of football denied them their request this past week. Interesting to note that Snowflake will remain in D-IV. Also, Amphitheater was allowed to move down from D-III to D-IV where they will now be one of the major players in that division, replacing Empire.
But, Mendivil has been here before. It may take a year or two, or maybe even this next summer, but he will get them back on track. Cienega is a big school with big players playing in D-II which means more and more freshmen will be looking at their playing opportunities and might choose to play for Empire.
In their 21-14 loss to Snowflake, Grayson Weeks threw for an unofficial 209 yards (JJ Greta threw a 32-yard touchdown pass in the game and it was not reflected in the records) and ran for 71 more. Greta caught 5 passes for 80 yards and Spencer Woody caught 5 for 71.
Chance Hatfield ran for 54 yards.
Snowflake had two runners rush for 100 yards with Chase Walden gaining 114 on 18 attempts and Braccin Tanner reaching 100 on 10 carries. Walden threw for only 45 yards in the victory.
In other action from Saturday, Thatcher standouts Presley Motes, Jacob Drage and Garet Kartchner were unable to get past Tempe Prep in the second round of the D-V playoffs to finish their season at 10-2.
All attention now falls on D-II and III with Salpointe, Ironwood Ridge and Nogales still alive. This will be the last year Nogales plays in D-III because the AIA denied them their request and they will be playing D-II football next fall.
Saturday, November 10
12 Empire (8-4) lost to 4 Snowflake (10-2), 21-14
Saturday, November 10
6 Thatcher (10-2) lost to 3 Tempe Prep (10-2), 26-14
Friday, November 16, 7 pm
1 Salpointe vs. 4 Centennial at Amphitheater
3 Ironwood Ridge vs. 2 Marco de Niza at Campo Verde
Saturday, November 17, 7 pm
14 Nogales vs. 2 Queen Creek at Campo Verde