All together now: “It’s the most vengeful time of the year.” ’Tis true. Sort of.
Five high school football teams have a (final) score to settle.
One saw the wool pulled over its eyes in last year’s state championship game. Others are peeved over early-fall matchups gone awry.
If it’s true everyone deserves a second chance, then tonight’s the night for reversals, redemption and retribution.
Revenge doesn’t get served from a cold dish. It comes from doing unto others as they have done unto you.
Those aren’t words to live by in the real world, but reality bites harder when football Fridays end ahead of schedule.
BROPHY AT CHANDLER
Address: 350 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler
Records: Brophy 9-2; Chandler 10-1
Last meeting: Sept. 8 – Chandler 13, Brophy 7
First time around: The calendar says these two teams played nine weeks ago. The two teams say it was another lifetime.
Phoenix Brophy didn’t know what it had in early September. The Broncos may have won the 5A-I state title last winter, but by August it was a moot point.
The only thing they were sure of was starting running back Nick Natale was hurt.
Chandler didn’t know where it was going. Jim Ewan’s team had talent, and the Wolves figured they couldn’t possibly repeat the close losses that kept them out of last year’s playoffs.
The Wolves defined themselves as contenders with a 13-7 road win against Brophy. The Broncos had won 10 consecutive games dating back to 2005 and were ranked No. 1.
“They have a good defense and we had not faced a physical defense like theirs,” Brophy coach Scooter Molander said. “You never want to lose a ballgame, but in hindsight sometimes you have to go through those things.”
Two weeks later, Chandler moved to No. 1 and stayed for seven weeks.
“You don’t make the quarterfinals and become a 10-1 team by luck,” Molander said. “That speaks for itself.”
This time around: Beating Brophy was tough enough the first time. Now the season’s on the line. “I’d like to play someone we haven’t played to avoid this topic,” Ewan said.
Ewan knows he can’t. He also knows the Broncos aren’t what they used to be.
Natale may see action this week after missing all but the season opener with an ankle injury. Ray Polk hadn’t played running back until this season, but with 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns, he’s learned the part.
The Wolves know Brophy wants revenge and a spot in the state semifinals, but it’s not Molander’s style to use the R-word.
There are bigger fish to fry than vengeance. Staving off elimination, for example.
“I think it’ll be a pressure-packed game for four quarters,” Ewan said. “That’s the exciting part.”
DESERT VISTA THUNDER AT MOUNTAIN VIEW TOROS
Address: 2700 E. Brown Road, Mesa
Records: Desert Vista 7-4; Mountain View 10-1
Last meeting: Sept. 15 — Mountain View 27, Desert Vista 3
First time around: Mountain View used a handful of big plays and a sturdy defense to easily handle Desert Vista on the Thunder’s home turf.
Mountain View was in the process of reorganizing its offensive line, the facet of the game the Toros needed most to mold and improve as the season progressed. The line has been effective even though it is undersized in nearly every outing.
Desert Vista lost running back Avory Battle early in the first meeting to a foot injury that has shelved him for the season.
This time around: Mountain View is more polished up front on offense and a more effective team as a result. Desert Vista has played better defense since the lopsided loss and has adjusted to the loss of Battle with the emergence of hard-running John Trujillo.
Defense will decide the rematch. Desert Vista must reduce or eliminate the big plays it gave up to reverse the outcome. The Thunder also must throw the ball better if the running game can’t pick up more than 100 yards.
Coach Dan Hinds said the Thunder are better since the loss, and quarterback Mark Lund has been more efficient through the air.
Mountain View has the better running game and in a battle of defenses that’s critical. The Toros will be without top receiver Greg Heap for the second straight week.
APACHE JUNCTION AT ARCADIA
Address: 4703 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix
Records: Apache Junction 8-4; Arcadia 9-2
Last meeting: Oct. 6 — Arcadia 47, Apache Junction 28
First time around: Arcadia’s two-headed monster of Chip Sivak and Alec McDuffie took turns smashing the ball down Apache Junction’s throats as the Titans racked up 506 yards rushing in the contest. Sivak had 19 carries for 285 yards, while McDuffie added 147 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.
Shane McCullen did what he could for the Prospectors with 225 yards on the ground and four scores, but a fourth quarter rally by Apache Junction was too little, too late.
This time around: The win over Apache Junction gave the Titans a 6-0 start to the season, but they have gone just 2-3 since. McDuffie is not the quarterback this time around, as he can be found lining up in front of Sivak as the starting fullback.
The teams each finished 3-2 in region, but had varied results. Apache Junction beat Higley and Coronado, while Arcadia lost to both. Arcadia beat Queen Creek, while the Prospectors fell to the Bulldogs.
The Prospectors’ chances could hinge on McCullen. The sophomore running back gets plenty of touches, and his ability to control the flow of the game will be key.
Arcadia doesn’t want history repeating itself. The Titans beat Tucson Palo Verde in the regular season last year and then lost to Palo Verde in the 4A-II semifinals. “That’s one thing we want to learn from,” Arcadia coach Jim Bevell said.
COOLIDGE VS. WINSLOW
Time: 8 p.m., today
Address: Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern, Mesa
Records: Coolidge 10-1, Winslow 11-1
Last meeting: Nov. 26, 2005: 3A Championship game — Coolidge 34, Winslow 19.
First time around: Fourth downs were the difference in Coolidge’s 34-19 win in last year’s 3A championship game. Three times Winslow faced a fourth down deep in Coolidge territory and all three times the Bears rose up to stuff the play. Conversely, Coolidge converted two fake punts on drives that ended with touchdowns.
Winslow was led by quarterback Jordan Payne, the eventual 3A offensive player of the year, but Coolidge blitzed Payne into submission before calling off the dogs.
This time around: For starters, Winslow does not have Payne, but Art Gonzalez opened the year looking like a capable replacement. His injury midway through the season put the ball in the hands of sophomore Matthew Smith, who has managed to lead his team this far.
“He does a great job of not losing games for them,” Coolidge coach Carlo Hernandez said. “He throws well enough to keep you balanced.”
Smith likely will hand off to running back Mark Armao, and Coolidge will be loaded up to stop him. In last week’s 34-14 win over Fountain Hills, Armao had 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“It’s a lot of smash-mouth football, the kind of stuff we’ve seen from Safford and Seton,” Hernandez said. “They are going to run that Armao kid. If I had him, I’d do the same thing.”
What Coolidge does have is two of the best cornerbacks in 3A in Jesse Wheeler and T.J. White, who are also the Bears’ best offensive weapons. Wheeler will be making the 51st start of his career. He started at cornerback his freshman and sophomore years before becoming a two-way starter last year.
Wheeler and White allow Coolidge to commit more people to stop the run because they have the ability to cover any receiver in 3A man to man.
“We put those two guys on islands and we have all year,” Hernandez said. “We’ll live and die with those two.
VALLEY CHRISTIAN VS. PHOENIX CHRISTIAN
Time: 5 p.m., Saturday
Address: McClintock High School, 1830 E. Del Rio Drive, Tempe
Records: Valley Christian 8-3; Phoenix Christian 10-1
Last meeting: Oct. 20: Valley Christian 20, Phoenix Christian 19
First time around: Valley Christian quarterback Rob Brown played like a man among boys, scoring all three Trojans touchdowns in a 20-19 win. Brown made the play of the year so far for the Trojans on a 74-yard punt return.
However, there were some issues for the Trojans, who gave up 144 rushing yards to Cougars’ star Rocky Gingg and 302 total rushing yards.
“They ran the trap against us pretty effectively, Valley Christian coach Bill Morgan said. “Gingg runs as hard as any high school back in the state and with the trap and his ability to break tackles, that hurt us.”
Morgan said the difference came down to the big plays, most of which went Valley Christian’s way the first game.
“First time around, our kids played with a lot of heart,” Morgan said. “The difference was our ability to stop them on defense.”
This time around: Phoenix Christian comes into the game with some positive momentum after dispatching a tough St. Johns team 21-18 on the road last week. The Cougars also have a key newcomer in quarterback Naje Singleton, who sat out much of the season due to a disciplinary issue and missed the first meeting. Singleton, who started all of last season for the Cougars, is a double-threat running and throwing the ball, much like Valley Christian’s Brown.
Singleton’s passing ability probably saved the Cougars in their win at St. Johns. He completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Charlie DiGeronimo as time expired in the first half to turn an 18-7 St. Johns lead to 18-13.
“They always seem to find kids or have kids coming back who were hurt,” Morgan said. “They seem to step up during the playoffs.”
Valley Christian ran just 28 offensive plays last week, due in part to the seven turnovers Phoenix Bourgade had, three of which were returned for TDs.