Salpointe Catholic’s football team has been waiting 22 years for a chance to get back to the state championship game.
They’ll have to wait a few days longer.
All of Arizona’s playoff games scheduled for Friday were postponed until Monday by the Arizona Interscholastic Association because of rain and poor field conditions.
The top-seeded Lancers (12-0) will face No. 12 Glendale Deer Valley at 6 p.m. Monday at Marana High School.
The AIA informed the participating schools of its decision at 8 a.m. Friday, 11 hours before scheduled kickoffs. Salpointe must put its state title hopes on hold, if only for a few days.
“It’s got everybody panicked a little bit, but we’re just trying to get our bearings straight and reschedule everything,” Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said Friday morning.
“We’re working diligently to adjust our schedule and get it banged down.”
AIA executive director Harold Slemmer said he considered postponing the games earlier in the week, but waited until learning of the severe weather Thursday night.
“We thought we would be fine this weekend, but because now we have a 100 percent chance of rain today and tomorrow, we thought it’d be the wise thing to do,” Slemmer said Friday. “This is kind of a precedent, and the reason being is we didn’t move games about four years ago when we had a heavy rainstorm come in, and the conditions of the games were really bad.
“We took a lot of heat on that, so we are trying to be proactive at this point.”
Player safety and travel conditions were two of the determining factors to postpone the games, Slemmer said. Many visiting teams would have had to commute to out-of-town stadiums in wet and potentially dangerous weather.
Although Salpointe’s game was going to played on Marana’s brand new synthetic turf field, several other games, including the other Division II state semifinal, were going to be held on natural grass fields. Those facilities were flooded or muddy Friday morning.
“The main reason is that if the fields weren’t in good shape, it wasn’t going to be safe for kids,” Slemmer said. “We want to create the best conditions we can, and
if we can do that by postponing the game until Monday, that certainly was the motivation to postpone it.”
The postponements will mean short weeks for whichever teams win in Monday’s semifinals. The Division II and III state championship games will be held Friday, as scheduled, at Arizona Stadium.
That means undefeated Salpointe, which has outscored opponents by an average of 43.5 points a game this year, could have just three days to prepare for its biggest game of the year if it wins Monday night.
All week, the Lancers planned to play in the wet weather. Salpointe practiced with wet footballs all week and was ready to play Friday night, Bene said. The Lancers will practice tonight, in part to keep on schedule for Monday’s 6 p.m. kickoff.
“We were fine with playing in the weather, and the field at Marana is terrific,” said Bene, who found out about the postponements when his father called Friday morning to break the news. “I am surprised they (postponed) every game.
“One of the benefits with these synthetic fields is that they drain so well, so you can play in wet conditions.”
The AIA could explore postponing next week’s championship game, Slemmer said, though the association’s primary focus is Monday’s semifinals.
It’s unclear if the UA would approve a change of date. The Wildcats host No. 5 Oregon today at 1:30 p.m. in their final home game of the season.
“That could be an option,” Slemmer said. “We haven’t gotten to that part yet, we’re just trying to reschedule these games for Monday but certainly could be something we talk to them about.”