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NIAA finalizes football leagues for Class 5A in Southern Nevada

Bishop Gorman and Liberty will be playing football at least once a year.

Under the new Class 5A realignment, the two leagues will do away with the traditional Sunset and Sunrise, east-west configuration, and instead align the schools based on a north-south orientation, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s realignment committee voted Friday.

The leagues have not been named and will not be called northern and southern to avoid confusion with Reno-area schools.

Gorman and Liberty, two of the state’s best teams, will be joined by Basic, Coronado, Foothill and Green Valley in the southern league. The northern league will consist of Arbor View, Canyon Springs, Centennial, Faith Lutheran, Las Vegas and Legacy.

“If they’re in our division, we’ll play them every year, that’s fine, I have no problem with that, it gives us an extra chance to beat them,” Liberty coach Rich Muraco said. “The disadvantage would be if you beat them in the regular season, then you lose to them in the playoffs that would kind of suck.

“I’m not afraid to play Bishop Gorman.”

Friday’s proposal was continuation of last week’s meeting that was not finished because of time constraints. All proposals are unofficial and will be presented to the NIAA Board of Control at its Jan. 17 deadline for a formal vote.

What remains unknown is how the postseason will be formatted. Teams will each play five league games, and it is expected that four teams in each league will qualify for the postseason. But the two coaches of the best public school football teams disagreed on how that should be arranged.

Arbor View coach Dan Barnson proposed each league functioning on its own, playing an individual tournament and sending its winner to play the other winner. He said under this format schools could claim a region championship.

Muraco said the two leagues should be cross-bracketed, similar to how each Class 4A region and its two leagues have functioned in the past. Without mentioning Barnson by name, Muraco also said Arbor View’s proposal was to avoid Gorman for as long as possible.

“What some people want is very selfish, they want to avoid Gorman at all costs,” Muraco said. “They want Gorman not only not in their division, but then they also want to make that division a region, and that’s just not what it is.”

The realignment committee voted Friday to not make a recommendation to the board on how postseason tournaments will be aligned, with the exception of 2A and 1A football, which will remain the same. The NIAA staff will present a recommendation to the board in January.

Friday’s meeting was not just about 5A. In a reversal from last week, the committee voted to move Chaparral and Mojave up to 4A for football.

Xavier Antheaume, the 3A southern liaison to the board and Chaparral athletic administrator, proposed the change after fighting for the two schools to remain in 3A last week. He said he was caught off guard by Democracy Prep moving up to 3A from 2A, and wanted to keep the agreed-upon 12 teams in 3A. After consulting with other administrators of 3A schools, he introduced a motion to have the 3A Southern Region consist of 10 teams.

“I wasn’t a big fan of being thought of, as a realignment committee member, that I was only looking out for Chap,” Antheaume said. “Sometimes you get that negative stipulation, and that’s not what I’m about. … If I were to follow everything for Chaparral, I wouldn’t have made that pitch today.”

Mojave principal Greg Cole, who attended Friday’s meeting, agreed that his school — which made the 3A state title game this season — and Chaparral should move up to 4A for the sake of competition.

The committee voted to have one 10-league for the 3A Southern League to match the Northern League.

The 4A Southern Region, similar to 5A, will be aligned with a north-south orientation. Bonanza, Cimarron-Memorial, Desert Pines, Eldorado, Mojave, Palo Verde and Shadow Ridge will make up the northern league, with the southern league comprised of Chaparral, Clark, Durango, Sierra Vista, Silverado, Spring Valley and Valley.

Contact Justin Emerson at jemerson@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2944. Follow @J15Emerson on Twitter.

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