Ray Brewer and Case Keefer look ahead to Saturday's state championship football game between Bishop Gorman and Reed High.
We learned at a young age the importance of beating a high school from Reno in the state tournament. If you played football, the goal was to win the zone championship game at the Silver Bowl, then to carry the flag for Southern Nevada when taking on a team from the north for a state title.
Times have surely changed over the past 20 years. The Silver Bowl is Sam Boyd Stadium, after all.
Reno-area high school athletic officials, so frustrated with a decade of taking second place to Bishop Gorman in football and basketball, are well on their way to making it to where the days of a north-south state championship are over in the large-school classification for all sports.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s Board of Control in January will be asked to approve a new 5A classification for high-enrollment, perennially competitive schools such as Gorman, Coronado and Palo Verde. But instead of aligning Reno schools currently in the large-school classification to the 5A, those schools are asking to play down a level, where state would be competed against less competitive Las Vegas schools such as Valley and Eldorado in the remade class 4A.
With only Las Vegas schools, the class 5A “state champion” would be purely mythical and make Saturday’s football championship between Gorman and Reno’s Reed High the last of its kind. That’s a true shame, especially for us native Nevadans who easily recall our battles with schools from the other part of the state. (My soccer team took state in 1993 at Chaparral. Go Cowboys!)
As one Las Vegas-area coach posted on Twitter, “Protecting the weak and punishing kids who want to be great. The is no more State championships after this year. It’s all participation trophies. New wave!”
While the North’s logic of avoiding national power Gorman is understandable, especially considering the Gaels on Saturday should plow through Reed by the mercy rule of a running clock for its ninth straight championship, accommodating Reno in realignment would accomplish little to help Las Vegas schools in their plea to balance the playing field.
Make no doubt about it, realignment is about appeasing the North — even if athletes in Las Vegas, where there are nearly three times the number of NIAA member schools, are shorted. Of the eight regional quarterfinal games in football this fall, seven were decided by the mercy rule, and that trend will continue if Reno gets its wish to play down a classification.
The new 4A in realignment would be limited to about 12 Las Vegas schools to match those in the Reno area. That means about 14 would be pegged for the 5A, and there aren’t that many qualified schools to fill those slots. The have-nots would be forced to continue strapping it up against Gorman and Arbor View football, Centennial girls basketball and dynasties in other sports.
We’ve seen Eldorado and Valley finish in last place in many sports while stuck in the large-school classification, while Chaparral — a school with similar traits — has flourished in the 3A the past four years. Mojave, a former turnaround school, went from having a one-win football program in 2016 to the 3A state championship game.
Realignment will be determined using the Nevada Rubric, a formula that takes points earned by a team’s place in the standings for all sports. Football will be aligned separately, thankfully. Divisions will be finalized Dec. 7 during a planning meeting at Chaparral and forwarded for approval to the Board of Control.
Next week’s meeting is open to the public, so it’s not too late to voice your opinion. And don’t make your comments solely about Gorman — we don’t need to point fingers, but programs at other Las Vegas schools also attract players because of their success.
If Gorman football wasn’t dominating Reno-area teams, would Liberty and Arbor View take turns beating them? Would the final also be lopsided? What about Basic baseball and Centennial girls basketball? Is the North’s decision to skip on the 5A a means to avoid them, too?
As we have painfully witnessed over the recent years, there’s no easy solution for realignment. When you are managing 37 Las Vegas-area schools, and only a handful of those schools are thriving, some are going be put in bad situations and not all can have the fortune of playing in a lower classification.
If every school were like Chaparral, which has found its identify in the 3A and had memorable seasons in many sports, then realignment would be a hit. But for every Chaparral, there’s a Valley or Eldorado, and that’s not right.
What’s even worse is Saturday could be the last true large-school football championship game. Reno fans, like they often do when the game is played up North, will yell into the press box toward NIAA officials about their disgust at playing Gorman.
Next year, though, it will be different. It will be Reed, Reno or Damonte Ranch’s turn to get their revenge.