Nothing new in D-I playoffs; Deer Valley pulls big upset in D-II

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                </div>How can you not root for the Deer Valley High School football team?  The Skyhawks, who weren’t even a top 10 team when the season began and lost their opening […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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How can you not root for the Deer Valley High School football team?  The Skyhawks, who weren’t even a top 10 team when the season began and lost their opening game by 20 points, just upset Centennial High, the No. 3 team in Division II, to earn a berth in next week’s semi-finals of the state playoffs.

And it was a win over a team that beat them earlier in the season by 27 points, breaking a four-game winning streak.

But the bigger story here is that Deer Valley was banned from post-season play during the first half of the season after its football coach and administrators allowed players into a game while they were still in the process of appealing a ruling of ineligibility from the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA).  And to add irony to the situation, the players in question had transferred in from…yep, Centennial amid allegations of illegal recruiting.

It took the AIA more than a month to re-consider the penalty after eventually accepting the appeal.  The players were kept in limbo for all that time, but managed to focus from week to week on the game at hand.  They finished the regular season 7-3 and earned a spot in the playoffs as a No. 12 seed.

The Skyhawks upset No. 5 seed Sunnyslope High in the opening round.  Not just sneaking past the Vikings, but posting a 40-16 rout.  They followed that last night by accomplishing something no other team in the school’s history has been able to do – they became the first football team to reached the semi-finals, doing it via another upset, this time beating No. 4 seed Centennial.

Deer Valley scored first on a 23-yard touchdown pass from senior QB Devon Palomino to Jacob Dennis in the first quarter and held the lead the rest of the way, despite a comeback effort by Centennial that included a 43-yard TD pass from sophomore QB Isaac Steele to Tyler Simpson with 20 seconds left to play.  It still left the Coyotes a touchdown short and Deer Valley’s Walt Jarvis sealed the deal by covering the on-side kick and wrapping up Deer Valley’s historic 20-14 win.  Palomino finished the night just 9-for-21, but picked up 161 yards.

The victory sets up yet another opportunity for an upset, but this one will be its biggest challenge. Deer Valley will take on Salpointe Catholic from Tucson, the No. 1 seed and the dominant force in Division II all season long.  The Lancers, undefeated through 12 games, are also ranked No. 1 in D-II and last night eliminated No. 4 Liberty High School from Peoria, cruising to a 45-14 win.

Scottsdale’s Chaparral High will take on Gilbert’s Mesquite High School on the other side of the bracket.  Chaparral, the No. 3 seed, beat sixth-seeded Marcos de Niza High School last night, 35-21, and No. 2 Mesquite dropped seventh-seeded Campo Verde High in an overtime thriller, 26-20.

In Division I… the seedings are playing out to perfection as the top four seeds have made it to the semi-finals. Mountain Pointe High School, ranked No. 1 in Division I and seeded No. 1 for the playoffs, will take on No. 2-ranked Desert Ridge High, which is seeded No. 4.  That game will be played next Friday at McClintock High School in Tempe.

Meanwhile, at Highland High School in Gilbert, No. 3-ranked and second-seeded Chandler High will take on cross-town rival Hamilton High, ranked No. 4 and seeded third.

The game between Hamilton and Chandler will give Hamilton a chance to exact revenge for their loss to Chandler back in October when the Wolves broke a long (18 games) losing streak to the Huskies by handing them a second straight loss on the season, 26-16, after Hamilton got off to a strong 4-0 start.

And that’s just one side story that will develop next week in the semis.  But that’s the beauty of prep football.