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3 takeaways from prep football: New format leads to new champs

One of the most anticipated high school football seasons in Nevada history is over.

After a four-month-long saga over the offseason, a new radical realignment format was introduced that split top classification 5A into three divisions and added two state championship games.

The new setup was created to find a solution to the competitive imbalance that was evident the previous two years. Seven state champions were crowned over the last week and, potentially, one national champion.

Here are three takeaways from the high school football season:

1. Realignment creates title opportunities

Centennial (1-17) and Legacy (5-14) struggled the last two seasons playing the state’s power house programs in 5A. Both teams were placed in a more competitive league this realignment cycle and made the most of their chances.

Legacy won the 5A Division III state title in Reno on Nov. 18, holding off Northern champion Galena. Centennial fended off Sunrise Mountain for the 4A title at Allegiant Stadium on Tuesday.

Many schools thrived with a more competitive playing field and no giant orange and blue roadblock named Bishop Gorman in their way.

Even Northern Nevada can say they have a champion as Bishop Manogue won the 5A Division II state title over Faith Lutheran. It’s the North’s first title in the top classification since 2008.

It wasn’t just state champions that felt the benefit of realignment. In 4A, Bonanza went 5-5 and won a home playoff game after going 0-9 in 2022. State runner-up Sunrise Mountain improved from 4-7 last year to 9-2 in 2023 while winning the Mountain League.

2. Standings shakeup

Every team in 5A and 4A will have a different league schedule next season. Another wrinkle in the new realignment format is the introduction of promotion and relegation based on the regular-season standings.

The bottom two teams in 5A Division I (Silverado and Shadow Ridge), II (Las Vegas High and Durango) and III (Spring Valley and Cimarron-Memorial) will be relegated to the division below.

The top two teams in 5A Division II (Basic and Foothill), III (Legacy and Palo Verde) and both league winners in 4A (Centennial and Sunrise Mountain) will move up a division.

As many schools deal with roster and coaching staff turnover, teams that struggled this season will get a chance to play against a more level playing field next year. Teams at the top of the standings will get to challenge themselves in the division above.

The fun part: The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Realignment Committee will meet after the next football season to see if any more tweaks will be made for the following two-year cycle.

3. Gaels back on top, nationally

If there was one certainty this season, it was that Bishop Gorman would be the team to beat in 5A Division I. The Gaels, it turns out, were the team to beat in the nation.

Gorman, ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps and USA Today, capped off a 12-0 season with a 56-11 win over Liberty in the 5A Division I state championship game Tuesday.

That puts the Gaels in the driver’s seat to win a fourth mythical national championship once the final rankings are released next month. Gorman won three straight national titles from 2014-2016.

The Gaels racked up wins against Utah 6A state champion and No. 18-ranked Corner Canyon, No. 19 Centennial (Corona, California) and then-No. 6 Miami Central (Florida), when Gorman rallied in the final minute to take the lead.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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