We must move on. Or, at least, try.
The Chaparral-Saguaro debacle and ensuing fallout from Sabercats coach John Sanders not playing his key starters in the return of the uber-rivalry game stole the Friday night fodder (in a bad way).
The decision and massive fallout still illuminates the East Valley high school football landscape 48 hours later, but while it temporarily put a pall on the playoff chase, it won't anymore.
Across five of the six divisions, this fall's postseason picture has finally been cleared, so let's break down the delicious, duds and doozies that will be afforded to us in the East Valley during the next month.
Easy Street: No such thing, but No. 3 Desert Vista has the best draw toward the Division I semifinals for the second consectuive year. This time a home game with Phoenix North Canyon followed by a potential second-round matchup with currently-struggling Pinnacle to possibly set up a Brophy-Desert Vista semifinal. In Division IV, No. 4 Seton Catholic gets two very winnable games before a painful matchup with No. 1 Blue Ridge in the semifinals.
Painful potholes ahead: As it turns out, most No. 8 seeds. No. 8 Avondale Westview has to deal with Chandler. Then the Wolves would get Hamilton, then either Desert Ridge or Red Mountain to make the Div. I championship game, but anyone in the top half of that bracket is in for it (Chandler, Desert Ridge, Hamilton and Red Mountain). No. 8 Perry will probably face No. 1 Chaparral in the second round of Division II. No. 8 Williams Field (Div. III) has to beat Phoenix Thunderbird, then probably Tucson Sabino and Saguaro to reach the title game, while Queen Creek (which just beat Williams Field) would face Saguaro in the second round.
(Incidentally, after D.J. Foster and Co. stood on the sidelines against Chaparral, you think Peoria Sunrise Mountain is in for a world of hurt against those Sabercats on Friday night?)
Opening night ogling (in no particular order): No. 9 Chandler at No. 8 Avondale Westview (Div. I); No. 15 Mountain Pointe at No. 2 Brophy (Div. I); No. 10 Tucson Canyon del Oro at No. 7 Marcos de Niza (Div. II); No. 9 Phoenix Thunderbird at No. 8 Williams Field (Div. III); No. 10 Peoria at No. 7 Arcadia (Div. III); No. 15 Poston Butte at No. 2 Peoria Liberty (Div. III). No. 9 Tempe Prep at No. 8 Scottsdale Christian (Div. V).
Second-round sweetness: No. 9 Chandler at No. 1 Hamilton (Div. I); No. 5 Red Mountain at No. 4 Desert Ridge (Div. I); No. 5 Peoria Centennial at No. 4 Glendale Deer Valley (Div. II); No. 5 Saguaro at No. 4 Queen Creek (Div. III).
Bummer if you have to play these guys right now: Aside from the obvious (Hamilton, Desert Ridge, Brophy), Mountain Pointe has won four consecutive games, has a big-time, all-everything guy in RB Dillan Johnson, a big-play receiver/defensive back in Jalen Brown and the ability to maul people up front. Marcos de Niza has better talent than a No. 7 seed in Division II, and stopping undefeated Seton Catholic's offense should lead to plenty of cold sweats in Division IV.
Seeding is just a number: Marcos de Niza (No. 7), Perry (No. 8), Scottsdale Christian (No. 8), Chandler (No. 9), Mountain Pointe (No. 15) and Poston Butte (No. 15).
This year's version of 2010 Desert Ridge or 2009 Mesa: Not likely to be found in Division I, though Mountain Pointe or Basha have the best chance. Despite the loss to Queen Creek, Williams Field at No. 8 doesn't count, same with Arcadia at No. 7 in Div. III, but how about Poston Butte? The Broncos played Queen Creek down to the wire and Williams Field tough in narrow losses, a varied rushing attack and a really good coach in Mike De La Torre. Besides the competition, an inexperienced program, two road games and a neutral site semifinals make this daunting. But it looked that way for Mesa two years ago.
•Notre Dame: The Saints were bludgeoned by the state's elite to begin the season, were 2-4 trying to play in Division II, lost their coach (Scot Bemis) for the season because of a tumor in his elbow that eventually led to the discovery of lung cancer, and beat Horizon in a nail-biter on Friday to make the Div. II playoffs. The road is arduous from here with a first-round matchup at Tucson Salpointe, but after the previous three months, who cares?
•Dylan Young: The Gilbert receiver was named a captain for its season finale against Dobson, but relinquished that honor to Eric Beall, who'd been the team's emotional leader in practice and on the sidelines his entire high school career. Beall saw the field for the first time in the final football game of his career.
•John Sanders: Chaparral has nearly as much to play for (power points, playoff seeding, etc...) as Saguaro, and Charlie Ragle played his guys (a little too long), so why couldn't Saguaro? If D.J. Foster or Luke Rubenzer played against their big rival Scottsdale school they've never experienced before, and - heaven forbid - they were lost for the season due to injury in this game, do you really think they would have been bitter and never forgiven Sanders for playing them? Hamilton had less to play for, but the Huskies still managed to play their starters for a half. Gilbert wasn't going to the playoffs, but Jared Johnson ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns in his final game as a Tiger. It's about pride and competitiveness. The latter alongside Sanders' is one of his bigger strengths, but the idea this was solely about keeping his players healthy for the playoffs is garbage, and a disservice to those kids.
•Williams Field and the No. 4: No, it's not that top-notch running back Alex Howard wears No. 4. Let's give Queen Creek its due for another terrific regular season and a swarming defense, not to mention the job Joe Germaine and his veteran assistants have done. Again, the Black Hawks' downfall has been turnovers: From the 4A-II championship game last season against Phoenix Thunderbird (four), to a loss against Canyon del Oro (four) and again Friday night against Queen Creek (four). The Black Hawks can make another deep playoff run for sure, but not if they keep coughing the ball up in big games.