Each year, the high school football rankings begin to shake out about midway through the season, separating the contenders from the pretenders.
It looks like the process is well underway.
This time it’s Week 5 that has uncovered the point of separation between the top teams in the 6A conference from those that aren’t able to justify their rankings.
Last night, unbeaten Perry High School solidified its ranking as the top team in the state’s top conference by blowing its Gilbert neighbor, Highland High, off the field in a 56-6 demolition of the No. 6 Hawks. Coming into the contest, Highland was 5-0 and the only other team in 6A without a loss as the season moves into the final stretch.
At the same time, over on the east side of Phoenix No. 2 Mountain Pointe High School was dispatching No. 4 Pinnacle High by scoring 58 points on the Pioneers, who now fall to 3-3 and likely will be dropped from the top 10 when the next azcentral sports rankings come out.
The two teams exchanged scores throughout the first half, with Mountain Pointe going into the locker room with a slim 17-14 lead. But the Pride extended their lead to 17 going into the fourth quarter and then used a couple of quick TDs to stretch the lead to 45-14 to put the lid on its fourth win over in-state teams.
To be fair, the lopsided 58-34 score was helped by a couple of Pride touchdowns in the final minutes of the game.
The Pride’s only blemish on its record was a loss to California power, Chaminade High, in the second game on the schedule. They’re averaging 40 points a game against local teams.
Mountain Pointe is averaging 272 yards a game and most of that has been on the backs of senior Gary Bragg and junior Jakim McKinney, who combined last night for over 300 yards. McKinney rushed for 174 yards and Bragg added 160 as the Pride running backs ran wild over Pinnacle.
But as dominant as Mountain Pointe was last night, the Perry Pumas were perhaps even more impressive. After a slow start that included a first-quarter interception thrown by senior quarterback Brock Purdy, Perry ran off seven straight scores to leave a good Highland team in the dust.
Purdy settled down by the second quarter and went on to throw for more than 200 yards before halftime, eventually closing out the game with 268 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-27 passing. He also ran for another 116 yards.
Kenny Fultz took over the scoring duty in the second half, finishing with just 63 yards – but four touchdowns. It was Fultz’s number that got called most often when the Pumas got near the goal line; three of his TDs on the night were from inside the 10-yard line. The senior has been averaging almost eight yards a carry through the first four games.
And junior receiver Colby Dickie, who averaged 19.4 yards a reception coming into the contest, took his game to the next level against Highland. After a total 16 receptions on the year, Dickie pulled down eight catches for 102 yards last night, one of which was for a touchdown.
Perry’s defense was so dominant that Highland had to use a couple of field goals by Austin McNamara to get its six points.
The fans last night filled the seats at Perry’s John Wrenn Stadium, and still more stood to watch the game between the cross-town rivals. And the next game for Perry will likely be just as well-attended.
Perry will have a week off to prepare for No. 3 Chandler High, the defending 6A state champion.
And Highland has a similar situation as the Hawks enjoy the benefit of a bye week before getting their second straight test when they take on Mountain Pointe. That gives the Hawks some extra time to make the adjustments that will be needed to avoid another embarrassing outcome.
Highland, which wasn’t ranked in the top 10 when the season began but climbed to No. 6, is finding out just how hard it is to hold on to that lofty status.
However, an upset of Mountain Pointe would put the Hawks right back into that small circle of high achievers.
And shake up the standings once again.