Football distanceMOHAVE VALLEY, ARIZ.– The River Valley Dust Devil football team has already left for their Arizona Division IV semi-final game against the Mustangs of Sahaurita. The game is not scheduled until tomorrow night but in order to play this game, on a neutral field, the team has to travel 350 miles. That’s because, it’s being played on the artificial turf of Marana High School, northwest of Tucson. River Valley’s opponents are traveling 40 miles to play the game. Sahaurita is literally on the opposite side of Tucson from Marana– a short drive on Interstate 19, exit on westbound Interstate 10 and only minutes later- they’re at Marana High School. The River Valley team and its fans take Highway 95 to Lake Havasu City, through Parker and Quartzsite, hop onto Interstate 10, drive 130 miles or two hours to Phoenix, spend the night there, get back onto the bus, get back on I-10, drive another 93 miles and, viola! They’re also at Marana High School.  So this is suppose to neutral.  The discrepancy in travel had drawn the ire of parents and school administrators all week, but their complaints didn’t change anything, and now they’ve accepted the fact that they will have to play their neutral game in a not-so neutral location in front of a not-so neutral crowd. Dozens of parents called executives with the AIA and lodged their complaints– many times on nothing but voice mail.  The game was scheduled by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA). There are 10 semi-final games in five different divisions in Arizona. Only one of them is in the Tucson area and River Valley is travelling farther than anyone else to these neutral sites. In justifying their decision to administrators with the Colorado River Union High School District (CRUHSD)t, the AIA indicated that all semi-final games must be played on a synthetic turf. They also indicated they try to pick a ‘neutral’ site that slightly favors the higher-seeded team. River Valley is ranked third, while Sahaurita is ranked second. River Valley coach Paul Duchaineau calls ‘shenanigans.’ He says all you have to do is see where the AIA chose to schedule the semi-final game for the top seeded team in Division V.  In one of the Division V games, #1 Yuma Catholic is playing #4 Northwest Christian. The game is being played in Fountain Hills. The distance for the Shamrocks of Yuma Catholic–215 miles. For Northwest Christian players and fans, the drive is 43 miles. “It’s not a neutral field,” Duchaineau said. “We’ve got a few things against us, but we’ve got to play the game and we’ll play it wherever they want us to play the game.” The coach is adamant his team will be ready to play tomorrow regardless of the distance they had to travel. The Dust Devils are on a mission to finish what they couldn’t finish last year when they lost the state championship game to Blue Ridge. The road to this year’s championship game runs through Tucson and they’ll have to beat Sahaurita to move on. Ironically, this year’s state championship game will be played in Phoenix– 100 miles closer to Mohave Valley. Tomorrow’s game in Marana gets underway at 6 p.m. If you leave the Tri-State area by around 12 p.m., you should get there in time for kick off.

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