Final week of 4A,5A football includes intriguing match-ups

Doesn’t it seem like high school football just kicked off?  So how did the final week get here so quickly?

Actually, we’ve got another month before playoffs conclude and the season is officially in the books.  But Arizona high school football wraps up regular-season play tonight, as the 4A and 5A teams get a last shot at positioning for a playoff run or, in some cases, just improving their records.

Some region titles have already been decided, some will be finalized tonight.  But the 5A East Valley is going to take some untangling and sorting out.  Four teams go into tonight’s contests tied at the top of the standings.

Desert Ridge HS in Mesa, Mountain Pointe HS in Phoenix, Marcos de Niza HS in Tempe, and Perry HS in Gilbert all sport 4-1 records – and all four play each other tonight.  Perry is hosting Desert Ridge and Marcos de Niza travels to Mountain Pointe.

There are the usual scenarios that come into play in figuring out what each team needs to win the title.  “If team A beats team B, they win, unless team C beats team D”… and so on.  So let’s just sit back and let the drama unfold.

In the meantime, we can take a look at some of the other interesting story lines for the final week:

Chandler HS v. Trevor Browne HS:  This one should be a cakewalk for Chandler, but that’s not the story here.  Chandler’s coach since 2001, Jim Ewan, is hanging up his whistle after this season, so this becomes his final regular-season game in a long coaching career that began back in 1970.

Ewan, who has coached at the high school and college levels, has built a football power at Chandler that today is a consistent playoff contender.  The Wolves were coming off four years of losing seasons when he took over and tonight they should wrap up a 7-3 season before going into the playoffs as a team capable of challenging for the title.

A state championship would be a fitting way to cap off a great career.  Stay tuned to this one.

Basha HS v. Mountain View HS:  This 5A-I match-up will be much more interesting and can go either way, but once again it’s a coach that makes the game intriguing.  Basha is coached by Bernie Busken, who used to be the head coach at Mountain View – which became an elite program under his direction.

Busken was at Mountain View from 1995 through 2001, during which time he had a 40-game win streak, which set a state 5A record, and won three state championships with the Toros.  He resigned amid allegations of player abuse.

Now he is at Basha – a hire that generated much controversy – and has taken that team to an 8-1 record in his first year there, with the only loss coming against Cibola HS in Yuma, when they dropped a 14-20 decision.  Busken can win the title outright tonight by beating Mountain View.

Saguaro HS v. Queen Creek HS:  Queen Creek is another program with just one loss and looking to clinch a title tonight.  A win over 7-2 Saguaro would give the Bulldogs the school’s first 4A-I title in the Desert Sky Region.

This game will match up teams that rely heavily on the ground game.  Queen Creek has running back, Chim Nga, who rushed for 224 yards last week against Cactus Shadows HS and is averaging more than eight yards a carry. His touchdown total has reached 22, thanks to a pair last week.

But the legs that really propel Saguaro aren’t on a running back.  They belong to their dual-threat quarterback, Teddy Ruben, who is leading the team in rushing with 1,595 total yards and 24 touchdowns.  He is also completing 72 percent of his passes and averages 189 yards per game in the air.

This one should be high-scoring and fun to watch.

Canyon del Oro HS v. Sabino HS:  If you’re down in Tucson, this is the game to catch.  CDO comes into the contest undefeated (9-0) and Sabino has lost just once this season, a three-point loss to Catalina Foothills HS in Tucson.  They scored 28 points against Catalina, a 2-4 team at the time, the first time all season that they have put fewer than 40 points on the board.

And this game is for the Sonoran Region title.

CDO brings a ground game to the party that is averaging just under 300 yards per outing, with tailback Ka’Deem Carey leading the way.  Carey is averaging almost 10 yards a carry and gobbles up 163 yards a game.

Last year, Carey ran for 267 yards and five touchdowns when CDO and Sabino met.

That was the 4A-I championship game and CDO embarrassed Sabino in a 40-0 rout.  And that brings a whole new level of drama to what should be a great game, as Sabino looks for revenge.

The small schools are already getting their playoffs underway tonight, and there’s one game that holds a lot of fan interest in Class 3A because it involves Show Low’s red-hot QB:

Show Low HS v. River Valley HS:  Show Low’s quarterback, Rathen Ricedorff, is setting all kinds of records in leading the Cougars to an 8-1 record this year.  Their only loss was to No. 1 Blue Ridge.

Ricedorff is coming off a 45-41 win over Payson HS in which he broke a state record for career touchdown passes by throwing four scores to reach 96 and break the old record of 94, set in 2004.  He also owns the state record for touchdown passes in a single game (9) and the 3A records for TD passes in a single season (41) and passing yards in a season (3,014).

If the Cougars can keep winning and advance deep into the playoffs, Ricedorff has the potential to add still another record.  The state record for TD passes in a season is 49.  Ricedorff has 39, but is averaging more than four a game.

The 2010 regular season is wrapping up, but it’s going out in style with some great match-ups and numerous games that have a lot on the line.