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Don KetchumStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Ridge accustomed to playing in big football gamesAug 15, 2012
By Don Ketchum
The football program from Lakeside Blue Ridge has played some big games in its day.
The Yellowjackets have won 14 state championships (12 under current coach Paul Moro) and have finished as runner-up nine times (four under Moro).
On Saturday (Aug. 18), Moro and his squad will add another big contest to their resumes when Blue Ridge faces Moapa Valley, Nev., in the first of two games of the 7th annual Sollenberger Classic at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Blue Ridge won Arizona’s Division IV state championship in 2011 by defeating White Mountains rival Show Low, and Moapa Valley was Nevada’s Class 3A runner-up for the second straight time. It finished with a 10-3 record, including a 28-26 win over Show Low in last year’s Sollenberger Classic.
“This is a great opportunity for us, allowing our kids to play in a big stadium,’’ Moro said Wednesday (Aug. 15).
“It will help get us ready for another long season. We will have at least seven other “big games’ to play. I guarantee you that (Cottonwood) Mingus (second week’s opponent) has been waiting all year to play us. It’s kind of like that every week.
“We feel very privileged to play such a quality team in Moapa Valley.’’
Moro could have contacted Show Low coach Randy Ricedorff for information about Moapa Valley, but elected to look at game tape himself.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that there isn’t much I haven’t seen,’’ Moro said. “I know they (Moapa Valley) are well-coached and I can see how they make adjustments. I do know that they have some skilled running backs and linebackers.’’
Moro will have a few adjustments of his own to make.
Blue Ridge will have to find another productive player to replace the graduated Danny Groebner, one of the state’s best all-around players in 2011. Groebner rushed for 1,456 yards and 22 touchdowns and caught 32 passes for 451 yards and six scores. He played in both the baseball and football All-Star games at Surprise in June.
The top two candidates to replace Groebner are Brett Baker and Tyler Button.
The team does have its quarterback returning. Skyler Hill passed for 2,084 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 389 yards and five TDs last season.
Moro said he has not treated this game any differently by starting the preseason practices early.
“We didn’t want to start in July. That’s just crazy,’’ he said. “We might be a few practices behind, but we will be OK.’’
Further adjustments will come from the fact that a handful of players on both sides of the ball are nursing injuries, most notably star linebacker Chans Cox. The 6-foot 3, 230-pound Cox, who made an oral commitment to Arizona State, has had a few nagging injuries and had shoulder surgery after missing a large chunk of last season.
“I think our defense will play fairly well, but our offense might struggle a bit. That’s what can happen early in the season,’’ Moro said. “We will come out and try to give our best effort, try to make it enjoyable for our fans.’’