coming to that time in the Arizona high school football season that
brings with it ‘must-win’ games and much-anticipated upsets, when the
teams that have been continually improving sneak up on those that are
resting on their past accomplishments.
We see Gilbert High
School at 2-1 in region play, holding on for last-second wins in recent
games, now meeting up with cross-town rival Mesquite HS, which is
looking for it’s third consecutive victory… Skyline HS clinging to
slim promise of post-season play and needing a win over Westwood HS, a
No. 10 ranked team in 5A-I… McClintock HS facing Apache Junction HS
in 4A-I play, needing a win over the prospectors before having to take
on No. 2 Cactus Shadows and No. 4 Saquaro HS… Tempe Prep in 2A ball
trying to snap a two-game losing streak… and the list goes on and on.
So who ya gonna watch? Here are some games to consider in each of the 5A and 4A divisions…
In 5A-I: Chandler HS is expected to have its top rusher from last year back in cleats this week, as senior running back Taylor Walstad
hopes to be recovered sufficiently from a knee injury to be able to
contribute yardage that will be needed in this Fiesta Region match-up
with Red Mountain HS. With Walstad out of the line-up for the past
five games, Chandler sports a mediocre 3-3, 1-2 record, but that isn’t
indicative of the strength of the Wolves. QB Brett Hundley
has already run up over 1,000 yards of offense in a balanced run/pass
offense, spreading the passing among three top-flight receivers in Malcolm Holland, Jeremy Morris, and Michael Jordan.
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Red Mountain (5-1, 1-1) also gets some much-needed help, as Derek
Molina returns to the line-up. The team’s leading rusher, Molina has
accounted for eight TDs this season and will add some ground offense to
the Mountain Lions’ potent passing attack.
Both teams are coming off a bye week. Look for this one to go down to the last quarter.
The battle of the unbeatens will be worth the cost of admission as 6-0
Chaparral HS takes on 6-0 Pinnacle HS. Chaparral comes in ranked Nol. 3
and Pinnacle at No. 5, but that means little in comparing the two.
Both teams have made it this far with strong defense, but there will be
plenty of points put on the board this night. Chaparral QB Connor Brewer
has been enjoying an outstanding sophomore season and has eight TDs
already; his Firebirds put up 49 points last week and have gone over 40
points four times this season. And when it’s not Brewer doing the
damage, it’s Dwayne Garrett (792 yards rushing, 13 TDs) or Cole Tyree (581 yards and 7 TDs). And Alex Zemezonak pulled in passes last week for an accumulated 150 yards.
But make a mistake and Pinnacle will punish you. Last week, their 24-0
shutout of North Canyon HS was fueled by a blocked punt and two
turnovers; the defense converted those into 17 points. And QB Alex Cappellini was
a work in efficiency, throwing 11-of-14 for 189 yards and two scores.
The fact that the game will be played at Pinnacle should be just enough
to tilt the playing field a little toward the Pioneers. That might be
all it takes.
Saguaro HS continues working its way back into the title hunt following
a 61-17 romp over Moon Valley HS last week. The week before that,
Canyon del Oro HS (Tucson) ended its unbeaten streak at 37, so the
Sabercats are out to start the string over. But Cactus Shadows HS will
have different ideas this week.
Saguaro, 5-1 and ranked No. 4,
will need its’ A-game to overcome Cactus Shadows, 6-0 and ranked No.
2. Saguaro will bring a strong defensive effort and will need it to
contain the Falcons’ QB Dillon Classen, who threw five touchdown passes in a close (35-28) win over Apache Junction last week. He’s got great targets in Tommy Murphy and Brady Dombrowski.
But that’s not to downplay the Saguaro offensive machine, which scored
a 4A-I team rushing record of 626 yards against Moon Valley. The
Sabercats spread the scoring around, counting on the ground games of Danny Cork, Teddy Ruben, Bobby McGinty, and D.J. Foster.There
will be a lot of flying objects and churning turf when these two meet;
it could be a field goal that decides this one – or more appropriately,
a blocked extra point!
In 4A-II: There’s a possible upset lurking
here, as Notre Dame Prep takes on Arcadia HS. Notre Dame dropped from
No.l to No. 4 after getting beat last week by unranked Williams Field
HS – and having their 28-game win streak snapped. So the question is:
Can the Saints pick themselves up and hold Titan QB Colby Kirkegaard and a potent offensive game in check? Arcadia’s running back, Jake Hirschi ran for 112 yards last week and put up three TDs on Maricopa HS in a 42-10 rout.
But the Saints will counter with it’s first-year starting QB Will King,
who has looked nothing like a novice; he ran up nearly 300 yards
passing for three touchdowns against Williams Field HS and has shown
great consistency all season long.
This one has all the
earmarks of an upset, especially if Notre Dame is still licking its
wounds from last week. But odds are that Saints coach, Scot Bemis,
will have his squad back in the saddle and ready to start the streak
all over again. Should be a great game!
Saturday, January 23, 2021