This week, Centennial displays its No. 4 national ranking (US
Today) as it takes on Westview HS in a game that will be televised on
ESPNU, so that has to be considered the game for center stage. But
Westview is a long-shot to pull off an upset.
So let’s step back
and take a look at a few games that may not have the significance – but
should be more enjoyable for the fans in the stands. We’ve skipped 5A
competition altogether and dropped our focus down to a couple of 4A
games and an important 3A contest.
It’s the small-school game,
Tucson’s Empire HS (9-0) taking on upset-minded Fountain Hills HS (7-2)
that has perhaps the most significance, as this game is being played to
determine who will sit atop the 3A South Region. But it should also be
a thrill a minute, with lots of points on the board.
HS is a scoring machine, averaging 43 points a game and tallying more
than 50 points in four games this season. Junior quarterback Mito Mendivil, the coach’s son, has been throwing 100 yards a game and senior running back Cody Woody
adds 147 per game on the ground, with 21 touchdowns and over 1,300
yards total rushing so far. When the defense keys on him, running mate Jake Korinko, another senior, gets better than 7 yards a carry.
Mendivil’s success in the air can be attributed in large part to his primary receivers, Bryan Jeffries (313 yards this season) and Noah Smith (265 yards).
Fountain Hills has won seven games in a row after heart-breaking
season-opening losses of 6 points and 3 points. The Falcons have been
on a roll latey, putting up 70 points last week against San Tan
Foothills HS and blanking Coolidge HS the week before, 48-0. But the
weak competition of late will have done little to prepare them for the
kind of game they will face against Empire.
The Falcons will depend once again on the running of junior running back Beau Hilgemann and junior quarterback Rainer Greenstreet.
Hilgemann is averaging 104 yards per game, with 7 touchdowns, and
Greenstreet has a 62 per cent completion rate and has thrown for 600
yards. A couple of seniors, Bryce Scannell and Jordan Henslin,
will also be important keys. Scannel, a running back, has four TDs and
208 yards receiving; Henslin, Greenstreet’s primary target at wide
receiver, has 321 yards receiving.
LIBERTY HS v. BUCKEYE HS.
This 4A match-up is of special interest for a number of reasons… the
teams are tied for 5th place in the Division II power rankings and it’s
the familiar feel-good story of a newcomer taking on the established
powers. This is Liberty’s first season with seniors in the lineup,
while Buckeye has made four consecutive playoff appearances.
this should be an explosive encounter – which is always fun to watch.
Liberty is averaging more than 47 points a game and Buckeye has been
averaging nearly 400 yards and 35 points per game.
Liberty will try to continue riding the back of work horse Dan Mihelich
to what should be considered an upset if they win. Mihelich is chewing
up just over 203 yards a game rushing and has already piled up 1,628
yards this season (second in the state). He has accounted for 22 of
the squad’s touchdowns, two of them pass receptions. Sophomore QB Andre Gattie
is completing 63 per cent of his passes and has four TDs throwing the
ball and another nine rushing, despite not taking over the signal
calling until midway through the season when senior Keegan Whipkey was moved to a receiver.
Buckeye brings a load of offense led by senior QB Kody Karjala who has accounted for 1,684 yards and 24 passing and rushing touchdowns. Karjala will be looking for seniors Randy Hale Jr., David Banks, and Andrew Holden.
Hale has seven TDs and 512 yards this season, while Banks has added
five touchdowns and 498 yards and Holden another 341 yards and six
scores. Senior Adam Chavez brings another 479 rushing yards to the table.
CACTUS HS v. GREENWAY HS. This game is flying under most radars, but it promises some exciting football, just because Allen Woods will be on the field, if for no other reason.
Woods is the phenomenal Cactus running back that has scored 20
touchdowns in eight games, while piling up an amazing 1,831 rushing
yards. He is averaging 228 yards rushing per game!
is currently the leading rusher in the state and has been a work horse
game-in and game-out. He carried 26 times in a game with Washington
HS, 31 times against Queen Creek HS to finish with 269 yards, racked up
293 yards and 6 touchdowns against Dysart HS, and picked up 452 yards
against Thunderbird HS – including a 97-yard touchdown return.
Cactus HS is the favorite to win this one, ranked No. 4 in 4A-II, and
Woods will surely get his yards against Greenway HS, but the Demons
will counter with some firepower of their own. Daniel Rankin is a dual
threat, averaging 9 yards rushing and 9 yards receiving, and 6’2″
senior QB Zander McKean sports a 65 per cent completion rate. And he
has lots of targets, as his receiving corps averages 194 yards per
game: Ryan Harper, Ronnie Sellers, Tyler Bergsten, Gamal Oakey, and
Expect Woods to get 200+ yards again this week – and enjoy the show!