Desert Vista at Chandler
Nobody knows how the playoff seedings will unfold, but there’s some chance this game could be repeated in next week’s first round of the postseason. That’s a scary matchup for both sides. Meanwhile, this game has a lot riding on it in terms of home field advantage for the first round for both teams. Darell Garretson continues to have a strong season throwing the ball for Chandler (No. 10 in power rankings) with the Wolves’ high-powered receivers and tight end Patrick Baldenegro. Can D.V. stop Chandler’s passing game? Kabian Evans’ 190 yards rushing on only five carries against Gilbert last week is a good sign. Chandler needs balance while it’s struggled with injuries to its running backs all season. Desert Vista (No. 7) isn’t going to allow that kind of offensive production, and the Thunder’s running game will test Chandler’s tackling and discipline. Zach Tamburo up front is a big difference-maker for D.V., and if Jarek Hilgers and Kaleb Germinaro get going on offense ...
Prediction: Desert Vista 27, Chandler 24
— Mark Heller
Pinnacle at Brophy (at Phoenix College)
Many outsiders figured this was going to be a redux of the 2011 regular season for Pinnacle, which won its first eight games until a crazy meltdown loss to Desert Mountain followed by a blowout loss to Brophy en route to the quarterfinals. It played out that way until Pinnacle beat Desert Mountain last week. The Pioneers’ running game and defense have been sharp of late, and the QB play of Michael Sanders (62 percent completion, 17 touchdowns, 5 INT) has actually been on par or sometimes better than Brophy’s highly-heralded Tyler Bruggman (53 percent completions, 1,838 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT). Given this No. 4 (Brophy) vs. No. 5 (Pinnacle) matchup, neither side is in danger of losing a first-round home game, but Pinnacle could pass Brophy and earn two home games with a win here. The difference, however, is Brophy’s defense and a Marche Dennard-led running game, and the Pioneers can’t just stack the line of scrimmage because of Devon Allen and Clarence Clark on the outside.
Prediction: Brophy 31, Pinnacle 17
— Mark Heller
Williams Field at Queen Creek
Both teams are undefeated, but there is a clear favorite in this one. Queen Creek has won every game this season by at least 20 points and is second in Division III with only 35 points allowed all season. The defense is great and the offense isn’t far behind, as running back Matt Guida (108 carries for 1,744 yards, 21 TD) and quarterback Carson Jones (91-of-127 for 1,461 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions) lead a balanced attack. The Black Hawks are 9-0 but needed a late comeback to knock off Poston Butte a week ago. If running back Sean Schweichler doesn’t have a big day, Williams Field will likely be facing an uphill battle.
Prediction: Queen Creek 28, Williams Field 13
— Kyle Odegard
Red Mountain at Highland
The Hawks picked up their long-awaited signature win three weeks ago against Desert Mountain, but it came at a price. Highland was hit hard by injuries in that game, and it was apparent in a loss to Mountain View and last week’s close victory against Mesa. Highland surprisingly dropped two spots in the power rankings despite the win over the Jackrabbits, and are now on the playoff bubble at No. 14. Red Mountain beat Brophy and Avondale Westview early this season before losing to Desert Ridge and Mountain View, but likely earn a first-round home game with a win in this one. The Hawks must be able to handle the speed of Red Mountain skill players, Aeron Carr and Drake Pierre, to have a chance.
Prediction: Red Mountain 31, Highland 14
— Kyle Odegard
Marcos de Niza at Cesar Chavez
This script was similar last year, when the Champions started 8-1 but were blasted by Marcos de Niza in the regular season finale, 34-7. Cesar Chavez is undefeated this season and seems improved. The Padres are once again stacked with athletes and will likely finish as the No. 2 seed in the Division II playoffs with a win. Cesar Chavez may have closed the talent gap some, and it does play this game at home, but stopping quarterback Josh Eckley and skill guys Mauriece Lee, Paul Elvira and Jaquese Moore may prove to be too tough. Marcos de Niza has the type of team speed the Champions have not experienced this year, and that could be the difference.
Prediction: Marcos de Niza 35, Cesar Chavez 20
— Kyle Odegard