The Maricopa High School athletics program has been placed in the Arizona Interscholastic Association 5A Conference’s Metro Region and will play much of their next two school years in north Phoenix and Glendale.

The region will feature Apollo, Ironwood and Raymond S. Kellis high schools out of Glendale, Sunnyslope High School in north Phoenix and McClintock High School in Tempe.

“We have been placed in [the Metro] region for the next two years,” Maricopa Unified School District Athletic Director Mark Cisterna said. “All team sports except football and soccer will play each team in the region twice. Football and soccer will play each team in the region once.”

Maricopa will be traveling farther on a regular basis than they are accustomed to. Despite the mileage, the level of competition should be fair. The Rams are familiar with McClintock since the teams have competed well with each other in the nearly defunct Division III, but the unfamiliar teams such as Ironwood, Sunnyslope and Apollo have seen success at the Division I and II level. None would be considered powerhouses as of yet.

The newly formed Metro Region will likely produce competitive playoff contenders in many sports. However, with perennial powers such as Centennial High School returning to the 5A Conference, it will be an uphill battle for up-and-coming teams such as Maricopa.

“I’ve thought about it a lot, and 5A, I’m excited for it,” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “It’s obviously going to be a step up, but I think that we have some kids coming through this program that are pretty good football players, so it’ll allow them to challenge their talents and challenge us as a program.”

The schools that object to their conference placement must appeal to the AIA by Dec. 3, but Maricopa is not expected to be one of those schools.

The conference athletic directors will be meeting Dec. 9-11 to begin forming the region’s football schedule. Once the football schedule is set, the region athletic directors will have until Feb. 16 to work out the remaining sports schedules.

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