Even though defending champion Desert Vista and Chandler are two of the top teams in Division I, there is a real chance the loser of their matchup on Friday starts on the road in next week’s first round.
The Thunder sit as the No. 7 seed and the Wolves are No. 10 in the latest power rankings, and a team has to finish in the top-8 to begin the playoffs at home.
This matchup could be an offensive shootout, as both teams have playmakers up and down the roster. Desert Vista has solid wins against Palo Verde (Las Vegas) and Saguaro, but has yet to beat a top Division I team, with narrow losses to Mountain Pointe and Hamilton.
The Wolves beat Basha but also lost to Hamilton and Mountain Pointe and will look to even their record against elite competition. There won’t be any shortage of talent and the overall yardage should be high, so the key for both sides may be avoiding turnovers.
Here are some other storylines in Week 10, the final regular season games of the high school football season:
Win-or-out for Tempe
In the midst of controversy, a remarkable turnaround season for Tempe High is suddenly in danger. The Buffaloes are No. 17 in the Division III power rankings, which means Tempe must win at Maricopa (No. 9) on Friday night to get into postseason play. The Rams are coming off a nice win against Coolidge, their fourth consecutive victory. Against a very balanced offense in Maricopa (led by coach Cory Nenebar, a longtime Corona del Sol assistant), the Buffaloes will have to tighten up on defense in the way of last week’s loss to Seton Catholic and not commit seven turnovers as happened against the Sentinels. It’s been a sweet ride for Tempe this season after seasons of 0- and 1-win the previous two years, but a playoff berth would be frosting and make a higher-seeded opponent sweat in the first round.
Sweating it out in Scottsdale
Notre Dame is at it again. In another quest to dig out from early hole (2-4 through six weeks) and a brutal schedule, the Saints are in better shape than last year when they (with some help) pulled off a wild comeback to get into the playoffs and then made a run to the Division II quarterfinals. This time, Notre Dame is at No. 15 and faces Horizon at Scottsdale Community College. The Huskies are hurting without QB Victor Quinn and coming off a blowout loss to Chaparral, but the Huskies (7-2) are hanging on at No. 12 and even a loss here might still keep Doug Schaffer’s team in the playoff picture. Then again, it might not.
At least two schools here have secured playoff spots, but Tempe Prep remembers the whooping Northwest Christian gave the Knights in last year’s playoffs. NW Christian hasn’t showed much sign of falloff from the past few years of state championships and title game appearances, but the Knights (No. 7) would love to secure a home game and show the rest of Division V (other than Yuma Catholic which beat NWC in the 2011 title game) how it’s done. Can Tempe Prep find another gear against NW Christian’s stifling defense while many of those same kids put up a fight against NWC’s stout running game?
Mountain View rebound
The Toros’ feel-good six-game winning streak came to a screeching halt with a 51-6 loss to Mountain Pointe last week. Leading receiver Clark Brown missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle and Chase Funk was injured during the contest, so Mountain View will hope for an easy win here — not likely here given the rivalry — before resting up for the postseason. The Jackrabbits nearly played the role of spoiler last week against Highland before losing on a last-second field goal and can try that role again as the Toros aim for the win and a home playoff game.