It was some famous person (doesn't really matter who; since I can't really remember right now) who once said, "it ain't how you start, it's how you finish." Or something like that. This is a blog post, rampant historical accuracy is not absolutely necessary.
Anyway, when it comes to sports, there are many documented cases of teams that get off to horrendously bad starts, only to make some adjustments or changes along the way and then, as if on cue from an off-camera director (or the WWE choreographer) flip a switch and make a mad dash of improvement toward the finish line.
With that I give you the 2013 Cienega High School football team.
Left for dead a month ago, the Bobcats (3-5) are smack dab in the middle of the Division II state playoff hunt thanks to wins in their last two games. Cienega sits 20th in the latest power points rankings entering tonight's game at Desert View (1-7), and with a win there and in the regular season finale at Sahuaro (7-1) it may very well end up grabbing a postseason bid.
So, what changed? There's no fancy analytics to explain it, other than that Cienega finally started to score some points. It also helped the Bobcats were no longer facing the best of the best in terms of statewide competition.
The turnaround actually began with a loss, when Cienega fell 63-60 to Sierra Vista Buena, dropping it to 1-5. The 60 points were more than the Bobcats had scored in their previous four games combined, and since then they've scored 42 to beat Sunnyside and 57 in a victory over Nogales.
And because Cienega played such a difficult non-league schedule — its first five opponents are 27-13 — it likely has enough points from the schedule strength portion of the state's ranking system to get into the top 16 with wins tonight and next Friday.
The only catch is, it might need to finish in the top 15 to get in. That's because each section is guaranteed at least one team into the playoffs, and right now Section 4's top-rated team, Yuma Cibola (4-4), sits in 26th place.
Cienega can't worry about any of that, though. All it needs to do is win.
Here's a look at the what other local teams in playoff contention have going tonight:
No. 1 Salpointe Catholic (8-0) at No. 14 Ironwood Ridge (5-3)
No. 8 Sahuaro (7-1) at No. 18 Sunnyside (5-3)
No. 9 Tucson (7-1) at No. 13 Mountain View (5-3)
Douglas (2-6) at No. 7 Sabino (6-2)
No. 8 Canyon del Oro (7-1) at Flowing Wells (1-7)
No. 13 Catalina Foothills (6-2) at Marana (4-4)
No. 10 Rio Rico (6-2) at No. 21 Walden Grove (4-4)
Santa Rita (3-5) at No. 11 Sahuarita (5-3)
No. 17 Palo Verde (5-4) at No. 8 Safford (6-2)
Canyon State Academy (6-2) at No. 9 Pusch Ridge Christian (7-1)
No. 16 Benson (5-3) at No. 20 Willcox (4-4)
You remember the Tucson Padres, right?
For some of you—unfortunately, not enough of you—they were the team that gave us something fun to do on the dull, dry, hot summer nights when Tucson is otherwise a desolate wasteland.
But for most of you, the Padres were that club you may or may not have heard of, but certainly weren't going to support because of a laundry list of stupid reasons, including:
* They play in a "bad" area
* It's not the Diamondbacks
* It's not the Arizona Wildcats
* Keep Tucson Shitty
Well, since you didn't support this most recent (and very likely last) local foray into minor league baseball, maybe instead you'd like to see what it looks like when a community actually embraces their local team.
The team formerly known as the T-Pads is officially getting its name around 4:30 p.m., when owners of the club that's now playing in El Paso unveils whether they will be the Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Chihuahuas, Desert Gators or Sun Dogs.
For now, though, here's a glimpse into the mascot's eyes. Literally:
How big a deal is this down by Juarez's northern neighbor? The local paper, the El Paso Times, is set to go live with video from the unveiling event a whole 90 minutes beforehand.
There's even a video on the team's under-construction Web site explaining how the company that was hired to come up with the name, logo and colors (they're called Brandiose, why BTW is an excellent moniker) without actually revealing said name, logo or colors.
Who's running all this, J.J. Abrams?
UPDATE: They settled with the El Paso Chihuahuas.
There are three weeks left in the high school football season, and things are starting to shape up in terms of playoff participants.
And by shape up, I mean ... almost nothing is settled. But a lot of teams are in good shape, assuming they can continue on a positive track.
Of the 17 or so local teams that can safely be considered in playoff contention, only one — Salpointe Catholic — could lay down and take a nap for three weeks and still make the playoffs. The Lancers (7-0) aren't going to do that, though, as they'd like to stay rated No. 1 in the Division II power points in order to assure staying in Southern Arizona for the entirety of the playoffs.
(That's assuming the rumors the AIA plans on playing the D-II and D-III title games at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 29 and 30 are true)
Salpointe's last two regular season games will be good pre-playoff tests, most likely against fellow postseason participants. Then there's tonight's visit from Casa Grande Vista Grande (2-5), a team that has scored 37 points all season and has been outscored 129-0 the last three games.
The running clock will probably start so early the Salpointe sideline watchers will be home by 9 p.m.
Thankfully, a couple of the remaining matchups involving playoff teams are far more competitive.
Rincon/University (0-7) at No. 7 Tucson High (6-1)
No. 15 Sierra Vista Buena (4-3) at No. 9 Sahuaro (6-1)
No. 16 Mountain View (4-3) at No. 10 Ironwood Ridge (5-2)
Desert View (1-6) at No. 18 Sunnyside (4-3)
No. 7 Sabino (5-2) at Cholla (1-6)
Marana (4-3) at No. 8 Canyon del Oro (6-1)
No. 15 Catalina Foothills (5-2) at Casa Grande (2-5)
No. 11 Rio Rico (5-2) at No. 22 Amphitheater (4-3)
No. 23 Walden Grove (3-4) at No. 14 Palo Verde (5-2)
No. 9 Pusch Ridge Christian (5-2) at San Carlos (2-4)
No. 16 Benson (4-3) at Tanque Verde (2-5)
University of Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne probably has a lab down in his basement where he spends all hours of the night concocting new and inventive ways to interact with the Wildcat fan base.
His latest endeavor might just be the zaniest, but also possibly one of the most ingenious ways to endear Wildcat Country to the athletic program.
Byrne announced over the weekend, via Twitter and Facebook (duh!!!) and other platforms what he's calling a quintet of ways that UA football fans can feel even closer to the team than just buying season tickets and wearing official gear.
Each home football week (starting with the current one, in advance of Saturday's game against Utah) fans who follow certain guidelines will get the chance to possibly do one of five unique things:
* Roam among the players during the pre-game Wildcat Walk to Arizona Stadium
* Run out onto the field with the team right before kickoff
* Scoop the media and announce Arizona's uniform combination
* Sit in on Rich Rodriguez's postgame press conference
* Compose questions to be asked to RichRod during his weekly radio show
Each of the "experiences," as Byrne is labeling them, requires the use of certain hashtags related to the upcoming game and particular messages or photos posted via Twitter in order to be eligible to win. The winners will be notified via Twitter at various times, such as finding out 30 minutes before kickoff that you'll get the chance to be run over by Ka'Deem Carey as you dodge the pre-game onfield pyrotechnics, or getting word 10 minutes before the game is over that you're headed to the postgame interview tent.
One major caveat to the whole contest, though: you've gotta have a ticket to that week's game. The contest is intended to "reward" loyal UA fans who go to games, not award some random casual fan who just happened to be on Twitter and used the applicable game's hashtag.
Entering the home stretch for high school football, with only four weeks of games remaining before the playoffs begin. As of now, local teams are poised to strongly represent Southern Arizona in the postseason, but a lot can still happen since most the playoff hopefuls have to face at least one fellow in-the-running team.
Except, that is, for Sabino.
The Sabercats (4-2) are currently rated seventh in the Division III power points standings, but the remaining opponents on their schedule are a combined 6-18. The "best" of the group is Pueblo (3-3), which sits 30th, while this week's foe Catalina (1-5) is 37th.
A soft finish to the season after such a tough beginning — Sabino got thumped by Salpointe Catholic and Goodyear Desert Edge, both of whom are unbeaten and rated No. 1 in their respective divisions — can be both good and bad for the Sabercats. Good because it can get them prepared for an almost certain playoff berth, since every section is guaranteed its top-rated team. But bad because Sabino could finish 8-2 yet still end up outside the top eight spots due to the weakness of their future foes, meaning it would open the playoffs on the road.
As for all the other locals in playoff contention, here's what they're facing tonight:
Welcome, class, to Power Points 101.
Today we will make no attempts to explain the convoluted power point system the Arizona Interscholastic Association uses to determine high school playoff qualifiers and their postseason seeding, mostly because neither the AIA or points administrator MaxPreps will divulge just what goes into its "proprietary algorithm."
All we know is a school's rating is based on their record (with extra points given to beating bigger schools, and less for beating smaller schools), their opponents' record, and, possibly, their opponents' opponents' records. Say that five times fast.
What isn't known is whether margin of victory or other such intangibles are factored in, making what should be a simple, straightforward system for sending high school kids to the playoffs into the red-headed stepchild of college football's BCS standings.
But it's what we got, so we're just gonna have to deal with it.
Apparently, that sweet Living Social deal for tickets to the season opener didn't work out as well as planned for Arizona State University's football team.
The Arizona Republic reported today that ASU plans to tear out a chunk of the upper deck in Sun Devil Stadium in January in what's being explained as separate from the as-yet-completely-unfunded plan to do a $300 million renovation of the facility so bad it wasn't good enough for the Arizona Cardinals.
The tearout, scheduled to happen right after Sun Devil Stadium hosts the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (!) on Dec. 28, will remove 10 sections and 5,700 seats, reducing the capacity to about 66,000. The work would be completed in time for ASU's 2014 season, which includes a home game against Notre Dame but otherwise will probably result in thousands of empty seats for the other matchups.
ASU wants to completely redo Sun Devil Stadium, possibly putting in a shade canopy, but that project still needs to find a funding source. The school is trying to work a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks to play games at Chase Field while the work is done, whenever that happens.
Arizona's just-completed North End Zone project also reduced capacity by a few thousand, but also added club seating, luxury boxes, a multi-level football training facility and, most notably, seatbacks and armrests.
Tedy Bruschi, the University of Arizona great turned Super Bowl champ turned TV commentator, is among those getting inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame, the fourth such Wildcat player to earn the honor.
The official induction ceremony isn't until December in New York City, but the NFF's local chapter is making sure those in Tucson interested in giving Bruschi their well-wishes have a shot.
A lunch reception is scheduled for Oct. 18 at the DoubleTree Hotel on Alvernon Way. Tickets to the event are $50 per person, or $500 for a table of 10, which gets you access to a cocktail reception followed by a luncheon.
Additional information can be found on the event's Facebook page.
The other former UA players in the NFF Hall of Fame are Ricky Hunley, Chuck Cecil and Rob Waldrop. Players are only eligible if they were named to the first team of an eligible All-America list during college, and eligibility comes 10 years after their college career is over and they've retired from professional football.
Bruschi played at the UA from 1992-1995, where he finished with 52 sacks, tied for most in NCAA history. He was the 1995 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a linchpin in the Desert Swarm defense that put Arizona on the map in the early- to mid-1990s.
Bruschi went on to play 13 seasons for the New England Patriots, winning three Super Bowl titles along the way.
Here's a highlight package (straight from the wayback machine, before college gear became so high-tech) the UA put together after Bruschi's induction was first announced in May:
English professor John Melillo gives a multi-media presentation about the downtown New York world of arts and… More