Southern Arizona, East Valley thriving in football playoffs
November 17, 2010 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
Tucson has at least one team in every 5A and 4A quarterfinal football playoff bracket. The East Valley is seven strong in the final eight of the 5A-I bracket. Who do they match up with this week in the quarterfinals of 5A-I, 5A-II, 4A-I and 4A-II?
Time for a quick look, starting with 5A-I:
Mesquite (9-2) at Hamilton (12-0): Neither team had trouble in the opening round, posting huge wins. Mesquite matched up with Hamilton in the quarters last season and didn't fare well, dropping a 37-13 decision. In fact, this is the third time in the last four years Mesquite and Hamilton have met in the first or second round. Mesquite has junior Anthony Lopez again, a threat for big plays. Mesquite will be under the gun to play mistake-free football to have a chance. Hamilton's current winning streak stands at 37. The Huskies showed no sign of letting down with their effort against Westwood last week.
Brophy (6-5) at Mountain Pointe (9-2): Brophy's done a nice job getting to this point with a young team and without its starting quarterback of late. Fill-in QB Fred Gammage passed for 231 yards and a TD last week to go with 125 yards rushing and two TDs from Josh Dennard. That rallied Brophy from a 17-14 halftime deficit wtih Mountain Ridge. Mountain Pointe doesn't have the dominating running game of last season but an effective one done pretty much by committee. The Pride's defense has been good enough to offset the loss in explosiveness on offense. Defense should be the difference either way in this one.
Salpointe (10-1) at Desert Vista (9-2): Three common opponents -- Hamilton, Tucson and St. Mary's. Both teams lost to Hamilton and beat the other two. Desert Vista has won seven games in a row and several close ones (Mountain View, Chandler, Corona del Sol, Tucson and St. Mary's by a touchdown or less). The Thunder rely on two Mikes (Ingrassia and Arredondo) for their rushing yards and quarterback Hunter Rodriguez through the air. Rodriguez threw two TD passes last week vs. Mountain View. Salpointe is led by quarterback Jordan Scelfo, who carved up St. Mary's with 378 total yards (271 passing, 107 rushing). The Lancers also feature running back Johnny Pena, who has rushed for 1,242 yards and 17 TDs.
Gilbert (6-6) at Desert Ridge (8-3): The winner of this one assures the city of Gilbert a semifinal participant for the first time since 2004 (Highland). Desert Ridge enters with the opposite role from last week (favorite rather than underdog). The 15th-seeded Tigers are only the second team in the 5A-I in the last 10 years to beat the No. 2 seed (Red Mountain was the last beating Mountain Ridge in 2003). With the running game clicking, Gilbert has a more complete attack at its disposal. Tanner Hall and David Martinez are the featured backs for the Tigers. Hall rushed for 109 yards and two TDs last week in the win over Basha. Desert Ridge is running effectively out of its spread with junior Jordan Becerra igniting the offense and sharing the glory with running backs Joey Counts and Kevin Walters. The Jaguars still have wide outs Paris Clark and Sam Papa as threats in the passing game if opponents gang up on the run.
Marcos de Niza (9-2) at Centennial (10-1): Centennial remembers all too well the pain of last year's semifinal playoff loss to Marcos. That should be motivation enough for the Coyotes. Marcos extended payback to Perry last week for one of its two losses and did so without running back Anthony Shivers. The Padres filled in with big nights from Martwon Weaver and quarterback Tommy Thornton to bridge the gap. Shivers may be cleared to return to action this week. Centennial didn't have much trouble with Pinnacle in the first round. The Coyotes look to running backs Vegas Johnson and Jalen Ortiz. Johnson just eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Ortiz has added a second back with punch as a sophomore and nearly 800 yards on the ground.
Ironwood Ridge (8-3) at Sandra Day O'Connor (11-0): Ironwood Ridge's three losses have come to the top teams in Tucson - Canyon del Oro, Salpointe and Cienega. The Nighthawks, winners of their last six games, figure to give the unbeaten Eagles all they want led by passing quarterback Tyler D'amore (2,329 yards and 27 touchdowns). Ironwood Ridge can run, too. Running back Mitch Fischer has amassed 1,251 yards and 16 TDs. Wide out Trevor Wesley is 43 yards short of 1,000-yards receiving on the season. O'Connor has been knocked for a light schedule, but has been up to the task each week. The beat Deer Valley by 10 in the first round, 36 earlier in the season. It's not a stretch to say Ironwood Ridge is the best team O'Connor has faced thus far.
Apollo (9-2) at Canyon del Oro (11-0): Canyon del Oro has been tough to stop offensively and its hard to believe any team can outscore them. Ka'Deem Carey has rushed for a pedestrian 1,246 yards this season and 20 TDs nursing injuries much of the season. Apollo will try for the upset with dual-threat quarterback Jonathan Brown had his 2,800-yards of stats. Brown passed the 1,000-yard mark rushing in last week's playoff win over Cactus Shadows.
Peoria (9-2) at Cienega (10-1): Peoria will be hard-pressed to slow Cienega quarterback Jordan Mills, a 2,000-yard passer who makes few mistakes. Mills has thrown 26 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. Peoria running back Davonte Shivers has come on late, contributing a 236-yard rushing effort in last week's first-round win over Nogales.
Bradshaw Mountain (9-2) at Saguaro (9-2): Saguaro has the knack of winning most slugfests. It's hard to imagine Bradshaw Mountain can match Saguaro's play-making ability. Saguaro quarterback Teddy Rueben has passed the 2,000-yard mark rushing and passing this season, giving the Bears plenty to worry about. Saguaro is averaging a tick under 50 points a game; Bradshaw Mountain gives up 13 a game. The most points the Bears have allowed this season is 27.
Catalina Foothills (7-4) at Queen Creek (9-2): Catalina Foothills has enjoyed a fine season and winning a playoff game last week was a bonus. Queen Creek has played everyone tough, including its losses to Canyon del Oro and Saguaro. A tougher schedule overall gives Queen Creek an edge and playing at home won't hurt. The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Adam Brzeczek and running back Chm Nga.
Thunderbird (7-4) at Higley (6-5): Higley has to be pumped after knocking off a No. 5 seed, but Thunderbird is giddy about eliminating a No. 4. Both teams are better than their records. Higley is led by running back Kelvin Fisher, who lit up Washington for 240 yards rushing and five TDs. He also picked off three passes. Thunderbird is on a late-season roll with three wins in its last four games. The Chiefs last two losses were narrow defeats to Washington and Cactus. They are led by running backs Connor Hustead and Kani Bennett, who have combined for 2,000 yards and 27 TDs.
Mingus (9-2) at Notre Dame (10-1): Mingus has won six of its last seven games and its lone loss to a 4A-II school came against Liberty. Liberty was eliminated in the first round, but Mingus tradition can't be ignored. Notre Dame has taken care of business since its narrow loss to Williams Field in early October, reeling off five straight wins. The Saints are led by running back Korey Jones, who has rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 18 TDs. Two of his biggest games came against Williams Field and Higley, 4A East Sky rivals who are also in the quarterfinals.
Amphitheater (11-1) at Williams Field (11-0): Are coach Vern Friedli, the winningest coach in Arizona history, and his Panthers a match for Williams Field? We'll see. Amphi's only loss this season was early in September to Seton Catholic, 18-17. That's the same Seton Catholic squad Williams Field devoured in early October, 45-14. Williams Field is averaging less than a turnover a game, giving up a little better than seven points a game and run and throw effectively. Running back Alex Howard leads the offense. He passed the 1,000-yard mark for the season last week in the playoff win over Arcadia.