Prep football Week 7: sorting out contenders & pretenders

By the time the high school football season gets to Week 7, it’s generally time to shake out the contenders from the pretenders.

That scenario was playing out across the prep landscape last night, as most schools moved their games up to Thursday in observance of the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.

There were a number of high-profile surprises:

Desert Ridge and Deer Valley high schools pulled the masks off a couple of pretenders, as undefeated Centennial High School fell to Deer Valley, 14-7, and Basha High School lost its lofty undefeated status after an embarrassing blowout loss to Desert Ridge.

But, as usual, Hamilton High School continued to validate its ‘contender’ status with a 35-10 victory over Desert Vista High School, running its win streak to 47 games.

Desert Vista kept the game within reach through the first half, going into the locker room trailing 14-3.  But the Huskies dominated the second half and Desert Vista didn’t get their first touchdown until the final minute of the game – an offense that had been averaging 44 points a game.  That’s how good the Huskies’ defense is.

Hamilton’s senior quarterback, Blake Kemp, had a banner night, putting up 249 yards on 11-for-22 passing.  Hunter Rodriguez threw for 133 yards for Desert Vista, but had three picks.

But, while Hamilton was taking care of business as usual, things didn’t exactly go according to script for Basha High School.  The 63-24 drubbing at the hands of Desert Ridge High School had to be one of the biggest surprises of the night.

Basha, which had been averaging more than 50 points a game before last night, was lulled into a false sense of security by an early 10-7 lead.  But then the Jaguars lowered the boom, stacking up nearly 400 yards of offense before halftime of the Division I Section II game.  The Jags finished with 604 yards.

Desert Ridge QB Parker Rasmussen, who missed last week’s game, gave the Jaguars a balanced attack, throwing for 128 yards and running for another 162.  But he had a lot of help with the ground game, as Jordan Becerra added 154 more yards and Joey Counts was a legitimate workhorse, carrying 22 times for 125 yards.

Put it all together and it explains how Desert Ridge was able to gain a 466-30 advantage rushing.

On the other side, the Jaguars’ defense kept Basha’s signal caller under wraps.  Kyle Duran threw 31 times, but picked up just 124 yards on 12 completions.

The other major unbeaten team to take a tumble this week was Centennial High School, the No. 1 team in Division II, Section I – until last night.  The Peoria school fell to No. 8 Deer Valley High, 14-7.

Trae Armstrong, Deer Valley’s speedy senior running back, accounted for both of the Skyhawk touchdowns, one to close out the first half and the win-clinching score in the third quarter.  QB Austin Hillman threw just eight times all night, but completed six of those for 137 yards.

The win gives Deer Valley its first winning season in four years, but the victory comes with an asterisk.  Centennial’s offense sputtered somewhat without its top running back, Jalen Ortiz, who is sidelined with an injury.  The Coyotes also were missing three key members of their defensive unit, as well as two other starters on offense.

Regardless, the win should move Deer Valley up in the standings.  However, the climb to the top won’t get any easier.  The next two games are against Apollo High School and Ironwood High School, which have just three losses between them.