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High school football: Ranking stars tough as tackling Bates bros.

It started out as a simple question: Who are the 10 best football players to come out of each major high school in Southern Arizona?

As a 24-year-old Tucson native, it seemed like somewhat of an easy task.

Watch, I can name a few off the top of my head: Mario and Michael Bates of Amphitheater, Vance Johnson of Cholla, Rodney Peete of Sahuaro and, of course, Ka’Deem Carey of Canyon del Oro. And then …

Boy, was I wrong about it being easy.

Instead, it was nearly impossible to come up with these rankings. However, over the last eight weeks or so, that’s exactly what we’ve done.

Today officially kicks off the countdown to the high school football season. We’ll start by going back in history, naming 260 of the best former players to ever take the field in Southern Arizona over the last 100 years.

Fellow Star reporters Kyle Johnson, Jason Harris and I have spent countless hours this summer talking to local high school football historians, several past and present coaches and athletic directors to determine the best of the best. We’ve also spent plenty of time going through our archives and have sat down with columnist Greg Hansen to get his input.

While it was extremely difficult, I couldn’t be happier about the way it came out.

Our countdown begins today with famed Amphitheater High School, which, like many local programs with a rich tradition in football, brings a stacked top 10.

Coincidentally, when the season officially begins on Aug. 23, the countdown will end with Tucson High, which brings possibly the best history of all.

Between those two, we’ll take a look at schools like Cienega and Ironwood Ridge, which haven’t been open long but have made their names as football powers alongside schools such as Sabino, Salpointe Catholic and Sunnyside.

Each day we’ll feature a different school with an article about its No. 1 player and the rest of the top 10 listed. Fans can visit www.azstarnet.com to view a slideshow and learn more details on each school’s top 10.

And, because we know not everyone will agree with our picks, you can also comment online about who you think we left off, who we ranked too high and who we got right. It’s a perfect way to get everyone in the mood for football.

While this exclusive feature kicks off our countdown to high school football, it’s not going to be the only thing.

Starting Friday, we’ll be counting down 22 of the best current players for the coming season.

So over the next 26 days, relax and enjoy the ride, because football is right around the corner.

Southern Arizona’s best

Over the next four weeks, the Star will unveil the best football players in the history of each major Southern Arizona high school. The schedule:

Today: Amphitheater

Tuesday: Canyon del Oro

Wednesday: Catalina

Thursday: Catalina Foothills

Friday: Cholla

Saturday: Cienega

Sunday: Desert View

Aug. 5: Douglas

Aug. 6: Empire

Aug. 7: Flowing Wells

Aug. 8: Ironwood Ridge

Aug. 9: Marana

Aug. 10: Mountain View

Aug. 11: Nogales

Aug. 12: Palo Verde

Aug. 13: Pueblo

Aug. 14: Rincon/University

Aug. 15: Rio Rico

Aug. 16: Sabino

Aug. 17: Sahuaro

Aug. 18: Sahuarita

Aug. 19: Salpointe Catholic

Aug. 20: Santa Rita

Aug. 21: Sierra Vista Buena

Aug. 22: Sunnyside

Aug. 23: Tucson

Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at dgaona@azstarnet.com or 807-7761. On Twitter @DanielGaona13

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