Basha at Desert Vista
This certainly has the capability to be an intriguing first-round matchup. Basha is one of the best double-digit seeds in the tournament and has the type of offense to hang around with Desert Vista in a shootout. The Bears have been affected by turnovers in key games this year and need to clean that up. Basha’s defense had trouble early in the year against Chandler and Desert Ridge but played well against Hamilton. The Thunder dominated with its ground game when these teams met in the semifinals a season ago and it could be more of the same in this one. Jarek Hilgers and Zach Gonzalez could have big games running the ball, which would then open up the passing avenues for quarterback Matt Young. The Thunder’s defense is coming off an impressive job against Chandler and Desert Vista appears to be the more well-rounded team.
Prediction: Desert Vista 42, Basha 28
— Kyle Odegard
Campo Verde at Williams Field
A redux of the Week 3 matchup, in which Williams Field led 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter, then scored 14 points for a 24-14 victory over Campo Verde. Sean Schweichler had 12 carries for 187 yards and two touchdowns for the Black Hawks in the win, in which Williams Field overcame an early interception return for a TD by Campo Verde’s defense. That defense has been better for Campo Verde down the stretch during a six-game winning streak, as its not allowed more than 14 points since a loss to Maricopa in Week 4, while the Black Hawks are coming off a stinging loss to Queen Creek. This one has defensive stands written all over it, but Williams Field has a slight advantage in its offensive balance with Jeddediah Fagg throwing to Jordan Johnson and Cole Forsgren returning. If Williams Field can erase last week’s bad memories and not commit turnovers (a bugaboo) they can, again, pull out another squeaker.
Prediction: Williams Field 24, Campo Verde 20
— Mark Heller
Chandler at Brophy
The Wolves have shown their potential with a win over Basha and a one-point overtime loss to Mountain Pointe. Then again, they didn’t really challenge Hamilton or Desert Vista. It’s tough to know which Chandler team will show up, but if it’s the good one, Brophy could be in for a tough test. Chandler has dealt with injuries and academic ineligibility at running back all season, but a good game from Kabian Evans would be huge. The Broncos have played up to their potential in the past few weeks after a slow start to the season. Brophy quarterback Tyler Bruggman is fresh off a 368-yard, six-touchdown performance and may pick apart the Chandler defense. This game will showcase a ton of offensive playmakers and may be a shootout.
Prediction: Brophy 45, Chandler 27
— Kyle Odegard
Westview at Pinnacle
A real pick ‘em. Both teams went 8-2, both lost to Brophy and beat Mountain Ridge in close contests. Both teams love to run the ball and have been up-and-down defensively against top competition. The Pioneers’ offensive balance (QB Michael Sanders has been quietly excellent for Pinnacle’s passing game) and overall more difficult schedule works in their favor, as does Westview’s run-heavy style of play vs. Brophy’s passing game that torched the Pioneers last week. Westview has made its hay for several years with a top running game and solid defense, and this year is no exception, as Seivion Morris is one of the best RB in the state (93 carries, 948 yards, 11 touchdowns) whose attempts aren’t real high because Westview has blowouts in all eight of its victories (with losses to Red Mountain and Brophy). Ardis Palmer and Rene Corral also get carries in the backfield for Jeff Bowen, who’s been one of the best coaches in Division I for years. It won’t be the only one, but this could be the closest Division I playoff game of the night.
Prediction: Westview 27, Pinnacle 24
— Mark Heller
Horizon at Apollo
Horizon’s quasi-renaissance in former coach Doug Shaffer’s return to varsity continued last week with a nice win against Notre Dame as the Huskies took advantage of the Saints’ turnovers and pressured QB Nick Duckworth relentlessly. They’ll need to do it again to begin the playoffs as Apollo is led by Jordan Gungl (60 percent completions, 1,995 yards, 24 TD, 4 INT) and Nico Bayless in the backfield (728 yards rushing, 11 TD). Gungl has three solid wide receivers led by Braxton Nickerson and Justin Bishop. Horizon’s pass defense is going to be tested. Apollo has won six consecutive games, most against not-great competition but a solid win against Deer Valley. Still, Horizon has shown enough offensive balance with Charlie Quinn at RB and sophomore backup QB Dalton Sneed in recent weeks to believe it can keep Apollo’s offense off the field just enough.
Prediction: Horizon 24, Apollo 20
— Mark Heller