Region foes lock horns - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Region foes lock horns

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Posted: Friday, October 24, 2008 3:10 pm | Updated: 10:44 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It was less than a year ago when Westview players watched Centennial celebrate its second-straight state title at University of Phoenix Stadium.

You can bet the memory is still fresh. In fact, Coyotes Head Coach Richard Taylor is counting on it.

So, it's not an understatement when Taylor said this is the biggest game all season for a Centennial team that has prepared for a few big games this year. The Coyotes opened the season with a win against No. 5 ranked Desert Ridge, before handing top-ranked 5A-I Hamilton its lone loss this year, 35-16.

Those were just preludes for Centennial heading into this week's match up with Westview, which is ranked No. 2 behind the Coyotes in 5A-II.

"The team's intensity was up right from Monday," Taylor said. "We've had other big games this year, but not this big. We played them twice last year, once in the state title game, so there is a lot going into this game."

Hinging on the game is first place and command of the Desert West region. Both squads are 7-0 this season, including a pair of region wins.

The game also is a rematch of last year's 5A-II state title game that the Coyotes won 26-7. They scored on four of their first five possessions and held the Knights to 115 yards rushing.

 Westview again must contend with two Hughes in the running game, as junior running back Anthony Hughes - John's younger brother - filled cousin Jeff's vacancy. John leads the Coyotes with 13 rushing touchdowns and an 110.3 yards per game average.

Anthony has scored in each of the past four games and has racked up 352 yards on 54 carries.

Taylor said the Knights have a more balanced attack than previous years after graduating last season's tailback combo, which amassed more than 3,500 yards. Junior quarterback Jourdon Grandon has thrown for 754 yards, nine touchdown and completed 59 percent of his passes, and has run for 396 yards this year.

"The thing that makes them more difficult this year is that they've become two dimensional," Taylor said. "Before, we always felt if we could stop the run we could get a handle on them, but now with their ability to pass like they do more it will make them more difficult to slow down."

Westview's running game remains a threat, despite the balanced numbers on offense. Last week, the Knights rushed for 434 yards against La Joya, with Carlton Williams collecting 245 yards and three scores.

While Williams (76 carries, 743 yards, 10 touchdowns) leads the Knight out of the backfield, R.J. Robinson (53-445-7) gives opposing defenses one more weapon to worry about.

The other undefeated school in the Northwest Valley, Peoria, will have a big game of its own. The Panthers will play host to No. 3 ranked Paradise Valley (6-1, 3-1).

Peoria, No. 2 in the power rankings, is coming off a 31-20 win over Millennium .

"They're a good challenge for us," said Peoria Head Coach Doug Clapp. "They're a very balanced offense, which makes it tough to defend. We'll have to stop the run and make them throw effectively, but they can hurt you with the run in a hurry."

The Trojans' lone loss came to 4A-I power-point leader Saguaro, a 23-19 nail biter on Oct. 3. 

Paradise Valley's rush attack is led by junior tailbacks Jake Brown (51-for-373, nine touchdowns) and Tyree Parker (102-for-667, eight touchdowns).

Kevin Spain will line up under center for Paradise Valley. The junior has completed 55 of 93 passes for 618 yards and six scores, the majority of which hitting Ebenezer Makinde (17 catches, 197 yards, two touchdowns).

After Peoria downed Millennium, senior defensive lineman Michael Rodriguez said he couldn't wait for Monday to come around and start preparing for the Trojans. That didn't surprise Clapp.

"Michael Rodriguez is a special kid who has worked hard to get where he's at," Clapp said. "The way you see him play in a game is how he practices. He practices and plays hard, and doesn't know any other way, which is rare at this level. That's why he's one of our captains."

Another Panther looking forward to this week will likely be senior tailback Jamal Miles, who is coming off a 256-yard night on the ground with three touchdowns. That effort earned him weekly honors.

With an offense anchored by Miles and senior quarterback Vinnie Spano, it's easy to overlook a defense that has allowed the second fewest points in 4A-I. It's a unit the Peoria coach likens to the early 1970s Miami Dolphins' "No-name" defense.

"I said earlier in the season that it all comes down to how our defense performs," Clapp said. "The defense makes the difference and has been the key to the season. They hold everything together and there's really no marquee names. It's just a close knit group who don't care who gets the credit."

In other Northwest Valley action:

Deer Valley (3-4, 1-1) will look to right its ship against Goldwater (1-6, 1-1). The defending Northwest Region champion Skyhawks lost at home last week to Willow Canyon, 23-14, and are looking for their first home win this season.

Mountain Ridge (6-1), coming off a 39-22 win at Mountain Pointe, will ride the momentum to Desert Mountain (4-3).

Ironwood (3-4, 2-0) hopes to keep its 5A-II Desert West unbeaten streak alive as it travels to La Joya Community (5-2, 0-2).

Cactus (6-1, 2-1) will travel to Lake Havasu (4-3, 0-2) after scoring 103 points in two weeks, including a 61-7 drubbing of Agua Fria, following its disappointing loss to Peoria to open region play. Lake Havasu beat Desert Edge on the road last week, 42-10.

Raymond S. Kellis (3-4, 2-0) will play host to 4A-II Skyline rival Buckeye (2-5, 1-0).

Liberty (3-5) will face a tough test with Perry (4-2) coming to the West side.

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