The locals in 5A Division I and 5A Division II came away pretty much as expected in the first round of the state football playoffs Friday night. But more East Valley schools on the 4A-I and 4A-II side of the ledger are putting away gear this weekend than not.
5A-I saw typical performances from top seed Chandler Hamilton, No. 2 seed Phoenix Mountain Pointe, No. 3 Phoenix Brophy, No. 4 Chandler High, No. 5 Mesa Mountain View and No. 7 Chandler Basha.
Those six won their first-round games by an average margin of 36 points. No one gave up more than 14 points and a couple probably could have allowed no points without calling on the reserves for a much of their games.
Then there is No. 8 Gilbert Mesquite. The Wildcats better look for some new shoes for running back Anthony Lopez after he wore out the tread on his cleats with a pair of 60-plus-yard runs and 211 yards rushing. The Wildcats also better pull out a tube of BenGay for quarterback Steven Hansen’s shoulder after he threw two touchdown passes against Desert Ridge (Hansen threw zero TD passes during the regular season).
There was an upset in the first round, at least by a high seed, where No. 11 Mesa High blasted No. 6 Mesa Red Mountain. Mesa turned the tables in impressive fashion from an earlier 28-21 defeat by winning Friday going away, 37-10.
Red Mountain’s seven-game stretch of Mesa, Brophy, Chandler, Centennial, Hamilton, Desert Vista, Mesa left the Mountain Lions battered and bruised. The only respite they had in that stretch was a bye week and that didn’t help much.
5A-II bracket games turned out by the book. All the low seeds won (Peoria Centennial, Scottsdale Chaparral, Phoenix Pinnacle, Tempe Marcos de Niza, Tucson Sunnyside, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Goodyear Millennium and Avondale Westview).
The playoffs were almost brand new to Desert Mountain and coach Tony Tabor’s club had the only game with some nail-biting going on in the final quarter as Wolves’ quarterback Drew Seaman snuck in for the game-winning score with 22 seconds left to trim Tucson Ironwood Ridge, 14-10. The rest of the 5A-II winners won by an average margin of 31 points.
The surprising development from Friday came somewhat from 4A-I, but shockingly in 4A-II. In 4A-I Apache Junction, Queen Creek and Tempe McClintock bowed out from the 4A Desert Sky. They spent the last four weeks beating up on each other and that took away Cy Maughmer from AJ and a host of players from battered and beaten up Queen Creek, which was nearly defenseless in trying to outlast Glendale Apollo. AJ was ousted at the end due to a gutty two-point conversion made by Independence.
Cave Creek Cactus Shadows and Scottsdale Saguaro remained with convincing wins. Most thought those would come AJ’s and Queen Creek’s way as well.
The 4A-II bracket is now sans 4A East Sky. Gilbert Williams Field, Phoenix Arcadia, Scottsdale Coronado and two-time defending 4A-II champ Scottsdale Notre Dame were eliminated. Three (Williams Field, Arcadia and Notre Dame) by southern Arizona schools and Coronado by Peoria newcomer Liberty. Paradise Valley managed to survive with a good performance against Buckeye (43-20 win), but now the Trojans have to visit top-seeded Cottonwood Mingus without one of it top rushers, Tyree Parker. Parker was ejected in the loss to Buckeye and will have to serve a one-game suspension. The Trojans were going to need all hands on deck in their return matchup with Mingus. A win was iffy even with Parker.
I was fortunate Friday night. I watched a game that was about as close as any of the ones played and a thrill a minute, particularly in the third quarter when Mesquite rolled out 30 points to beat Desert Ridge. Let’s hope at least half of this week’s 5A and 4A quarterfinal games games are tight ones.
That may be asking too much after only 13 percent of the 32 first-round games last week (four of 32) were decided by a touchdown or less.
• The 5A first-round results have left us with some good contests, several of them rematches. Three of the 5A-I games are rematches — led by Mountain View at Chandler, Mesa at Brophy and Basha at Mountain Pointe. Mesquite at Hamilton is not a rematch, but the programs are familiar with one another, having played in the old Fiesta Region the entire decade up to this year.
Brophy bested Mesa, 26-18, back on Oct. 2; Chandler edged Mountain View, 45-42, on Oct. 30; and Mountain Pointe rallied to beat Basha, 21-10, on Sept. 11. Those are games that could go down to the wire. The jury is still out on Mesquite’s offense. It won’t be, however, if the Wildcats can manage even half of what they got this past week. Hamilton’s defense is just a tad better at this point than Desert Ridge’s, though.
• The 5A-II bracket pits a second chance for Desert Mountain at Pinnacle. Pinnacle won the first meeting, 27-17, on Oct. 23. Out of the area, another 5A-II rematch is the participants in the last two 5A-II title games — Centennial and Westview.
Centennial prevailed this season, 40-0, on Oct. 30. One difference this time is that Westview will have its quarterback Jourdan Grandon in action. Grandon missed most of the season due to injury. Grandon is good, but not good enough to make a 41-point difference.
• Jordan Morgan can put on a show, at home or on the road. The Valley Christian two-way standout accounted for five touchdowns for the Trojans in their 48-35 win over Benson in Friday’s 2A quarterfinal game. He rushed for 90 yards, passed for 75 yards, returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and returned an interception 47 yards for a TD He also scored two rushing TDs and added a passing TD. Not a bad night’s work for the biggest game of the year to date for the Trojans.
• Mesquite’s win over Desert Ridge was just the second postseason triumph since the school opened in 1998. They previously had beaten Phoenix Camelback on the road in 2002. The victory over Desert Ridge was the first home playoff win in school history and one that will be remembered for the improbable way the Wildcats won it.
• Mesa High has more than persevered this season as a member of the 5A Fiesta Region. The Jackrabbits suffered three one-score losses to Red Mountain, Chandler and Brophy this season. They won enough games to reach the playoffs and get second chances at those opponents. Four turnovers were critical in the 28-21 loss to Red Mountain in the regular season. But with Mesa won the turnover battle this time, limited Red Mountain to 164 yards of offense and won the first playoff game in the tenure of third-year coach Kelley Moore.
• The 4A East Sky. What happened fellas? The 4A-II bracket was the one of the four big-school brackets that had half or more of the teams with a shot at going to the semifinals. All are one-and-done. Was too much credit given to the East Sky? Or are other regions and schools better than we gave credit? We’ll have to see as the next two weeks play out. Southern Arizona schools now have a 50-50 shot of winning the 4A-II title with their performance in the first round.
• One of these days, the Metro Region is going to get let off the hook and their schools will be allowed to play in 4A. It’s been 16 years since a Phoenix Union High School District school has played for a football championship. They have no chance of competing with 5A schools even though their numbers may be equal to that of other 5A schools. The 5A realignment for this year was done with competition in mind.
When push comes to shove, they still can’t compete in 5A even if they play each other mostly during the season and then get thrown to the Chandlers, Mountain Views and Mesas. Phoenix Trevor Browne, Phoenix Maryvale and Phoenix Central lost their playoff games Friday by an average margin of 52 points.