BEST OF THE WEST - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

BEST OF THE WEST

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2007 3:18 pm | Updated: 7:58 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The 5A Div-II state football championship will feature play makers with stats that make defensive coordinators wake up during the night in cold sweats. Among the skill position players taking the field at 8 tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale will be Centennial's senior trio of: ? Quarterback Scott Burgett who has thrown for 1,689 yards and 23 touchdowns. ? Running back Jeff Hughes a 1,200 yard rusher who has 20 touchdowns on the season while averaging 8.89 yards a carry. ? Arizona State bound wide receiver Jarrell Barbour, who has 26 catches for 531 yards and 14 touchdowns, not to mention eight interceptions from his cornerback position. Attempting to take down the 12-1 defending 5A Div-II state champion will be Westview's running back tandem of Reggie Nicholson and Brian Conley. Nicholson has rushed for 1,825 yards and 26 touchdowns on the year, averaging 10.61 yards a carry. Conley has been nearly as devastating during a 1,733-yard season including 20 touchdowns and a 12.4 a carry average for the sixth-seeded Knights (10-3). As he prepared to coach in his third straight state championship game, Dick Taylor offered an insight into how the game will be decided. "If I were a fan, I'd spend a good part of the game watching the battle between the offensive and defensive lines," said the only football coach in the history of Centennial High School. "You look at the film of some of their games and their offensive line has simply overpowered a lot of opposing defenses. They've just rolled over teams like waves." The rock that is the front seven of the Coyotes defense isn't easily eroded. In the regular season matchup between the two Desert West Region teams, the Coyotes shutdown the Westview offense. Centennial limited Nicholson to 76 yards on 13 carries and Conley to 67 yards on 14 carries in a 20-14 victory. For both backs, who have combined for 18 100-yard games, it was their second lowest rushing total of the season. "They've got a big, strong offensive line and two talented guys in the backfield, but we're just as big and our defense is really good at stopping the run," said senior defensive tackle Kendrick McBride. He will spend most of the night matched up with Westview senior stalwart center Guy Reynolds. While Reynolds garners the most acclaim, Taylor said Westview has a sound offensive line. "They do a real good job getting those backs through the hole and to the defensive team's linebackers," said Taylor, who has led Centennial to a 34-1 record against 5A Div-II opponents the last three years. "The key for us will be maintaining gap control. We've seen them on film enough to know that if you don't, those backs will find the cutback lanes." For most of the first game, Centennial did all that and more as the Knights were held to seven points in the game's first 46 plus minutes. A late touchdown made it a one score game with less than two minutes remaining. The first Westview score came on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Conley from quarterback Albert Lizarga in the first quarter. The completion and run was the lone completed pass in the game from Westview, a fact not lost on Centennial. "They pound the ball," linebacker Adam Shipley said. "You look at their two backs and they've scored something like 50 (46) rushing touchdowns between them and it's hard to imagine they're not going to run the ball a lot against us." Burgett can envision the Coyotes taking Westview out of their game plan if they were able to get off to a strong start. "We expect to put points on the board," he said. "The first time we played we didn't do much as an offense. The defense carried us a little bit, but I think we'll be more aggressive this time. They're a very tough team, but if we could get some early breathing room, that might make it hard on them." Hughes was the catalyst for the Coyotes in the first matchup, finishing with 178 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. He also believes the Coyotes offense might be more productive this time around. "For this group of seniors, it's our last chance to play together, so I think we'll show off all the talent we have as a group," he said. Check westvalleypreps.com for coverage of the title game. IF YOU GO WHAT: 5A Div-II state championship game WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale WHEN: 8 tonight TELEVISION: Cox 7 RADIO: 1060 AM COST: $7 general admission, $5 for students with ID ROAD TO THE FINALS No. 1 Centennial (12-1) 1st round: 56-14 over No. 16 La Joya Quarterfinals: 51-8 over No. 8 Desert Ridge Semifinals: 41-6 over No. 5 Sunnyside No. 6 Westview (10-3) 1st round: No. 11 Skyline 35-23 Quarterfinals: No. 3 Marcos de Niza 36-34 Semifinals: No. 10 South Mountain 48-6

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