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Mesa Grande Cultural Park will step into the season with a special winter celebration for the whole family on Dec. 21.
Gov. Jan Brewer is weighing whether the troubled Child Protective Services needs to be split into a separate agency headed by someone who reports directly to her.
Here is a look at parking and traffic restrictions for the Parade of Lights and annual Tumbleweed Tree Lighting events in Chandler on Saturday (Dec. 7).
Predictions for this weekend's Div. I-III football championship games [compiled by Mark Heller/Tribune]
PHOENIX — A plan by the Department of Economic Security to deal with a backlog of 6,000 uninvestigated child abuse complaints is getting panned by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
No. 3 Chaparral vs. No. 1 Salpointe Catholic (6 p.m. Friday at University of Arizona stadium): It’s funny sometimes how schedules are scrutinized. Salpointe Catholic hasn’t played nearly as difficult a slate as Chaparral did during the regular season or playoffs, but the Lancers are considered unanimous favorites. There’s good reason. The Lancers have it all: explosive playmakers on offense and defense, led by Cameron Denson, Andrew Cota, and Kaelin Deboskie, and one of the top defenses in the state (regardless of division). Chaparral, however, has all of the same ingredients, and the Firebirds know they’re underdogs which bodes well, if not unusual. The game is basically a home game for Salpointe Catholic, which works in their favor. Similar to Mountain Pointe, this could be Salpointe Catholic’s year, but Chaparral has the defense and offensive balance to make the Lancers sweat. Since nobody has played Salpointe closer than 31 points this season (45-14 win over Peoria Liberty in the quarterfinals), what happens if Chaparral gives them a game? The Firebirds will, and we’ll find out what Salpointe is made of.
Prediction: Salpointe Catholic 34, Chaparral 27
VX predictions for the high school football state tournament semifinals [compiled by Mark Heller/Tribune]
Advocates for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (English translation: amnesty) like to point out that immigrants in the past have flocked to America and made important contributions to our nation. That’s true, but the America of 1913 was different from 2013 in ways that greatly affect the probability that immigrants will become contributing citizens.
No. 6 River Valley vs. No. 2 Seton Catholic (Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. at North Canyon H.S.): So much for the theory that Seton Catholic wouldn’t be good enough to contend and potentially repeat as Div. IV state champions after the mass graduations from the 2012 title team. The Sentinels sustained their share of injuries, but a team coach Rex Bowser thought might have been a year away has gradually (though not easily) improved and learned to play at a varsity level. The Sentinels are coming off a tense quarterfinals win against Winslow, in which the defense hung on late even after allowing 315 yards rushing and three touchdowns to bulldozing RB Kelly Wood. River Valley knocked off Snowflake, 28-14 (it was the closest game River Valley has played in since Week 3), so the Sentinels won’t get another crack at Snowflake after Seton lost to them, 28-23, at home in mid-September during a penalty-marred affair. River Valley is a bit of an unknown coming from the Mohave Valley, but they’re good and have been almost all season (its only loss was 21-17 to Div. V powerhouse Yuma Catholic). The question of course, when facing Seton Catholic, is whether a team can stop the Sentinels’ spread-you-out offense. Conversely, Seton is going to get another dose of ground-and-pound with River Valley RB Brandon Long (212 yards last week vs. Snowflake). The Sentinels are extremely small in size defensively (their biggest player is 185 pounds), so they’ll have to be quicker and better tacklers than last week. Stopping Seton, however, could be the bigger problem for River Valley.
Prediction: Seton Catholic 24, River Valley 20
No. 3 Chaparral vs. No. 2 Mesquite (at Gilbert H.S.): The storybook season for Mesquite continues, thanks to a wild gut-check victory last week against a Campo Verde team which deserves plenty of credit for coming back and forcing overtime after a terrible first half. Still, Mesquite made a couple plays and found a way to win, the kind of toughness and resiliency which has defined the Wildcats this season under coach Jim Jones. Chaparral, however, is a different animal. The Firebirds’ skill position players could be the best Mesquite’s stingy defense has seen this season, and the Chaparral defense – in particular the front seven – are fast, physical and playing as well as they have all season (as Marcos de Niza can attest to). Once again, a potentially wet, sloppy field plays into Mesquite’s hands, but outside that, it’s going to be tough sledding for Mesquite’s offense to consistently move the ball on Chaparral (even though the offensive line is a Mesquite strength). The Wildcats want to plod and slow this game down to a crawl as much as possible, there’s no chance they win a shootout. Chaparral, however, is the most capable team Mesquite has played, of not allowing that to happen.
Prediction: Chaparral 24, Mesquite 17
No. 4 Desert Ridge vs. No. 1 Mountain Pointe (at McClintock H.S.): The easy pick is Mountain Pointe. After all, the Pride have been in a league of their from day 1 when they beat Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) on Gorman’s home field in late August. Nobody has stopped the Pride since, a rare combination of offensive balance, a defense, clearly defined leaders, excellent coaching, and something of a chip on their shoulder after losing handily in last year’s state championship game. Desert Ridge possess much the same, yet because of a little-used passing game and wonderment about the competition it’s faced to date, question marks still linger. The Jaguars are going to use Player of the Year candidate Taren Morrison and run right at the Pride, testing Mountain Pointe’s willingness to be physical and disciplined on every snap the entire game. Miss one, and Morrison is gone; the big plays are how Desert Ridge has broken the big-school, single-season rushing record. The difference here being Mountain Pointe’s defense is about as good as Desert Ridge has seen this year, and the Pride’s balance on offense tips the scales ever so slightly. As with all games, coaching at this level is pretty much a wash because how good they are with game plans and adjustments. If rain is a factor, Desert Ridge might gain an advantage on a slow, wet field. If not, it’s hard to go against the grain, even if it’ll be a tremendous game.
Prediction: Mountain Pointe 24, Desert Ridge 21
There are as many schools of thought on the whole advantage-disadvantage debate in "rematch" games as there are rematch games this week in the state tournament quarterfinals.
VX Div. II and III football predictions for the playoff quarterfinals [compiled by Mark Heller/Tribune]
VX Div. I football predictions for the playoff quarterfinals: [compiled by Mark Heller]
Those who abhor public prayer are at it again. They are offended by reference to deity among other things.
No. 9 Red Mountain at No. 1 Mountain Pointe: Red Mountain is suddenly rolling. OK, the Lions have played well for most of the last month, both offensively and defensively (especially the former compared to how the season began), and dissected an upstart Highalnd team last week on the road in a blowout win. The party, however, might be over. Mountain Pointe’s speed-physicality combination defensively is going to make life pretty tough for the Lions’ dual quarterbacks. On the flip side, can the Lions stop Mountain Pointe’s running game of Paul Lucas and Brandyn Leonard, and stop the Antonio Hinojosa to Jalen Brown and/or Timmy Hernandez combinations? That’s asking a lot, and while Red Mountain’s schedule has prepared the Lions for games like these, it’s hard overcoming the Pride’s speed and offensive balance. Nobody has so far.
Prediction: Mountain Pointe 34, Red Mountain 17
When the Republicans talk about “Affordable Heathcare,” one of the options they tout is “Repeal and Replace.” Given their past history, a Republican “Replace” option concerns me more than anything else. Republicans have always prohibited Medicare — the single largest buyer — from attempting to negotiate drug prices, consistent with the pharmaceutical companies’ philosophy that completely unrestrained prices and profits are necessary to fund the risk-taking of research and development. Medicare is required by Congress to accept the pharmaceutical companies’ prices without comparison or negotiation, add 6 percent to it, and pay it. As a perpetual gift to the pharmaceutical companies, when Part D of Medicare was passed in 2003, Congress prohibited Medicare from negotiating altogether. There were some reciprocal gifts from the pharmaceutical companies to the cooperating Congressmen, as might be expected.
PHOENIX — There will finally be as many people working in Arizona at the end of next year as there were employed here in 2005. But a new report Thursday shows it will take perhaps three more years for the state to hit its pre-recession employment peak.
Varsity Xtra football predictions for the first round of the 2013 playoffs [compiled by Mark Heller/Tribune]
No. 7 Campo Verde at No. 2 Mesquite (Div. II): The Week 10 battle of Gilbert’s Div. II upstarts was Mesquite’s in a 30-0 landslide. The Wildcats pounded Campo Verde’s defense with 38 runs, and threw it 27 times and amassed 420 yards of total offense. Besides it beign the first game without RB Gabe Ogbonnaya (out for the season with torn ACL), Campo coach Max Ragsdale said this week he counted 26 missed defensive assignements that night. The Coyotes’ defense is/was better than that all season, so a closer return to form is likely. Mesquite put up 42 points against Sierra Vista Buena in the first round last week, but Campo Verde's defense isn’t going to let that happen. The Wildcats are banged up (Nolan Tondreau was injured last week and was a dagger against Campo Verde in the first meeting), but Campo Verde needs a big-play threat running the ball, and hasn’t found one without Ogbonnaya. Mesquite’s defense is still too good for Campo to consistently move the ball, especially in the secondary.
Prediction: Mesquite 24, Campo Verde 13
No. 8 Canyon del Oro at No. 1 Williams Field (Div. III): Thanks to a 99-yard scoring pass allowed, an offsides call in the final minute which could have given the ball back — and what Higley felt were blown calls between a touchdown and fumble — Tucson Canyon del Oro held on to edge Higley last week, setting up this matchup. It stands to reason, however, that based on recent trends, CDO has little chance against Williams Field, which blew out Higley a couple weeks ago. The Black Hawks passed the first test with ease in life after QB Jeddediah Fagg (broken collarbone) as Cole Patterson had a big night against Avondale Agua Fria (8 of 12 for 189 yards passing and 3 touchdowns). The Black Haws’ running game and defense are too good here, and they’ll march onto the semifinals. Sooner or later, the Black Hawks will get another Queen Creek-Saguaro-Desert Edge matchup and be pushed to their limit, but not yet.
Prediction: Williams Field 41, Canyon del Oro 17
The opening bell rang as the iconic “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays played and 350 high school students all at once began yelling while gesturing and scrawling down notes from reports.
Predictions for Week 10 of the high school football season [compiled by Mark Heller/Tribune]
Chandler at Highland: Highland coach Pete Wahlheim was pretty emotional after beating Basha two weeks ago on a last-second field goal. Highland gave Hamilton everything it could handle last week in a close loss, and if his Hawks can knock off Chandler this week, Gilbert might make Nov. 1 as Pete Wahlheim Day. OK, maybe not, but the Wolves aren’t about to dismiss Highland based on what Highland has done against the other Chandler schools this season, let alone a 5-1 record the past six weeks. However, the Wolves are playing about as well as anyone in the state the past four weeks, and the offense has so many dangerous parts, even a defense as good as Highland is going to have trouble keeping up. The Hawks have shown they’re capable of putting up some points, even if the numbers are never glamorous. They’re unquestionably going to have to score touchdowns, but the Hawks also can’t get in any kind of a shootout. It’s a thorny juxtaposition, as Chandler looks to enter the postseason as a No. 2 seed on a roll.
Prediction: Chandler 35, Highland 24