So Hamilton won again, huh? Yawn. Despite a scare from Chandler two weeks ago, the top-ranked Huskies continue to assert their dominance on the rest of Division I, with Desert Vista the latest victim.
But the state tournament isn’t a lost cause.
For the past two seasons, the playoffs have been wild and wacky, with intriguing matchups from the first round on with upsets galore. Mesa made the title game two seasons ago as a No. 11 seed and Desert Ridge did it last year as a No. 10.
After Thursday night’s action, we could be in for more of the same.
Just when Basha, Brophy and Desert Vista looked like the prime contenders, all three were thrown for a loop. The Thunder were soundly beaten by Hamilton, 35-10. Basha was diced up by Desert Ridge in a 63-24 loss. Brophy stayed undefeated, but needed a late field goal to slip past Avondale Westview, and the team’s schedule hasn’t been very tough.
Meanwhile, teams like Red Mountain and Desert Ridge are back in the mix after struggling at times this season.
In many ways, Mesa and Desert Ridge’s journeys to the title game were more memorable than Hamilton eventually coming away with the title. The Jackrabbits were the feel-good story of 2009, using a bunch of unassuming neighborhood kids to shock the state and make it to University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Jaguars went from 2-3 five games into the season to an offensive machine despite the loss of quarterback Parker Rasmussen to injury.
So when this season ends, Hamilton sure has a good chance at hoisting a fourth straight championship trophy, but that might not even be the overriding theme.
Thus far, several teams have looked great one moment and mediocre the next.
Mesa and Desert Ridge both had their struggles before making the championship, but peaked at the right time. Both also benefitted from fortunate draws and getting placed on the opposite side of the bracket as Hamilton.
There could be another team ready to follow that same path again this year. Who is it going to be?
It’s crunch time for Mesquite, which has a 3-4 record with games left against Desert Vista, Corona del Sol and Deer Valley. A win on Friday over the Thunder would be huge for the Wildcats’ playoff aspirations.
Basha and Perry are Chandler district neighbors and will face off. The Bears were blown out last week by Desert Ridge and Perry downed undefeated Poston Butte, but Basha is the favorite in this one.
St. Mary’s and Brophy renew their private-school rivalry, and even though the Broncos will be big-time favorites, they were last year, too, when the Knights pulled off the upset.
Pinnacle is one of three undefeated teams left in Division I, but faces a tough game at Anthem Boulder Creek.
Chandler against Corona del Sol and Poston Butte against Queen Creek are other intriguing matchups.
Quarterbacks took their lumps this week. Desert Ridge signal-caller Parker Rasmussen left early in the third quarter against Basha with a shoulder injury, but said afterward he thought it was only a bruise.
On the other side of the field, Bears quarterback Kyle Duran was pulled after getting tackled and injuring his knee and ankle. Coach Bernie Busken also doesn’t believe that injury to be serious.
At Cactus Shadows, quarterback Bryce Kinsler suffered a thumb injury on his throwing hand and didn’t play in the second half. If any of those players miss time, it would certainly affect their teams.
Desert Ridge: The Jaguars couldn’t have written it up much better against Basha. Parker Rasmussen (166 yards, 3 TD), Jordan Becerra (155 yards, 3 TD) and Joey Counts (126 yards, 2 TD) all ran crazy, and the defense held up surprisingly well against the Basha passing attack. Desert Ridge showed how dangerous it can be when it is clicking on all cylinders.
Red Mountain: The Mountain Lions lost to Mesquite early in the year and wasn’t very competitive against Brophy, but has flipped a switch recently. The team has gotten healthy and integrated Marcus Brantley more into the offense, and after rolling to a win over Mountain View, Red Mountain has suddenly thrust itself into the mix of contenders.
Davonte Neal: The Chaparral star did a little bit of everything in a win over Mesquite. He ran for 160 yards and a touchdown, caught two more, and even threw for a score out of the Wildcat formation. Neal also had a 50-yard punt return touchdown called back because of a penalty.
Brophy play-calling: It’s hard to judge without being there, but the Broncos went for it on a 4th-and-10 deep in their own territory and also did an onside kick after grabbing the lead with under two minutes remaining. Brophy held on to beat Westview, 24-21, but those were curious calls on the surface.
Postgame altercation: Desert Vista lineman Zach Tamburo was ejected for throwing a punch late in the team’s game against Hamilton, and to make matters worse, there was a heated postgame exchange between coaching staffs. It seems we can’t go a week without one coach getting mad at another for some sort of incident.