How well did those pre-season football rankings hold up?

    Notre Dame Prep’s surprising fall from grace was one of the significant
stories of this year’s Arizona high school football season.  The Saints
had won the last two 4A-II championships and were ranked No. 3 by The Arizona Republic
coming into the season.  But they not only fell from the ranks in the
Top 5 final standings, they got bounced from the playoffs in the first
round, blanked by Santa Rita HS (Tucson) 33-0.
    That got us to
thinking about just how well those pre-season rankings actually fare in
the final analysis.  We made some comparisons and found that the sports
scribes at The Republic did pretty well, hitting 70 percent accuracy in both the 5A and 4A divisions.
In 5A-I, they correctly picked four of the top five finishers, with
Basha HS the only team that dropped from the group.  It was replaced by
Mountain Pointe, which finished ranked No. 3, and looked every bit like
it deserved the honor, winning its playoff opener, 49-14, over Westwood
HS as it scored 28 points in the third quarter: a 34-yard run to the
end zone by DeAndre Currie, a fullback dive in from the one by Joey Leal, and a 12-yard pass play from QB Austin Blom to Garrett Holle.
Basha also looked like its pre-season ranking as it took down St.
Mary’s, 33-7, behind 144 yards passing and two touchdowns from QB Mike Benjamin.  Benjamin threw for 315 yards the week before, but his primary target, Richard Parker, who has 42 receptions this year, missed the game recovering from a concussion.  Lucas Guevara carried the workload, carrying for 16 times  for 89 yards and scoring the final TD of the night.
In 5A-II, only three of the Top 5 picks were still ranked at the end of
the regular season: Centennial HS, Marcos de Niza HS, and Chaparral
HS.  Pinnacle HS (No. 4) and Sunnyside HS (No. 5) replaced Millenium HS
and Westview HS.
   Millenium and Westview both won their opening
round games by big margins, trying to show they still belong at the
top.  Millenium was powered by the passing of QB Mike Massey (2 TDs) and 128 yards rushing from Marquis Flowers to beat Sandra Day O’Connor by 35 points. Westview, behind the return of its starting QB Jourdan Grandon, scored 28 points in the second half of the 35-17 win against Boulder Creek.
But Sunnyside HS and Pinnacle HS also won big in the opening round as
Sunnyside dropped Horizon HS, 48-7, and Pinnacle won over Ironwood HS,
27-7.  Pinnacle’s QB Alex Cappellini was
9-of-18 passing for 147 yards and no interceptions.  On the other hand,
the Pioneers created five interceptions to take Ironwood’s QB Justin Butler out of his game early.
In 4A-I, the prognosticators were on the mark again, missing only one
pick.  Apache Junction HS was listed at No. 5 going into the season,
but was replaced at the end by Cactus Shadows HS, which finished in the
No. 2 spot.  Shadows QB Dylan Claussen was on target once again, throwing for six touchdowns and close to 300 yards in the 63-16 rout. Tommy Murphy also had a field day on the receiving end, racking up 168 yards and four scores.
    Apache Junction HS, on the flip side, lost a heart-breaker to Independence HS, 36-35, the school’s first playoff victory. Nate Scola, who has been a workhorse for AJ all season, had 110 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.  But it was Danny Fuller who took a short kick and returned it 65 yards for the score that gave the Prospectors a 35-28 lead late.
In 4A-II, Notre Dame wasn’t the only one that made the pre-season Top
5, but finished out of the rankings.  Paradise Valley HS also took a
stunning tumble, as it started the season at No. 1.  But the Trojans,
who depend on the arm of QB Kevin Spain and the ground game of Tyree Parker and Jake Brown,
may have just suffered its biggest blow of the season.  They beat
Buckeye HS, 43-20, in the opening round, but lost the services of
Parker for the next game against No. 1 seed Mingus HS (Cottonwood). 
Parker who was on his way to a 100-yard night before being ejected for
a personal foul late in the fourth quarter.  Brown, who finished the
game with 225 yards and two TDs, will have to carry a bigger part of
the load against Mingus, which destroyed Catalina HS, 48-0, in its
    If you’re counting, that’s four out of five pre-season
guesses correct in 5A-I and 4A-I and two missed in 5A-II and 4A-II. 
That’s 70 percent accuracy.  Not bad.