Hamilton at Red Mountain: This has “upset special” written all over it, and for good reason. The Lions are coming off an impressive win against Peoria Centennial and have found their starting QB in Aaron Eiseler. Their running game has struggled lately since Xavier Parsons was lost for the season, but has potential for growth in the coming couple of weeks, and the defense line is solid. Red Mountain has shot itself in the foot in games it lost (Brophy, Chandler) and giving the Huskies extra anything never works. The Lions’ WR core will test the Hamilton secondary with their crossing routes and speed, but the Huskies’ defense shut down Chandler’s offense, and they can negate the Lions as well. This game should be a good one, but it’s hard not to go conservative given Hamilton size on both lines and QB Kyren Poe’s running-passing combination.
Prediction: Hamilton 27, Red Mountain 24
— Mark Heller
Mountain View at Chandler: Chandler’s biggest weaknesses (penalties, turnovers, defense) were exposed last week in a loss to Desert Vista, and most of that can’t be blamed on QB Brett Hundley missing the game with an ankle injury. His prognosis looks better this week, although the Wolves said he’s a game-day decision. That makes a big difference against Mountain View, which scored plenty on the Wolves in their two meetings last year, but couldn’t stop Chandler. The Toros have won five of their last six games to stay alive in the first-round home game playoff picture, but with only a couple fewer discipline-related problems on the field, the Wolves will be tough for this Mountain View team to contain, especially if Hundley can play.
Prediction: Chandler 31, Mountain View 24
— Mark Heller
Mesquite at Basha: This is a battle between a couple of old school coaches and their defense-first philosophies. The Wildcats have the better running back in Anthony Lopez, while Basha’s air attack is more advanced. The game should stay close, and the team that makes the most big plays should win. This is the biggest game for Basha coach Bernie Busken since he returned to the high school ranks, and it will be a victorious one.
Prediction: Basha 21, Mesquite 18
— Kyle Odegard
Highland at Gilbert: This rivalry game doesn’t have the same presence as others, but it is a crucial one nonetheless. While both squads are currently on the outside looking in at the 5A-I playoff picture, the team that wins this game has a solid shot of sneaking in if it also wins its final regular season game next week. The loser will likely be eliminated. Gilbert has improved as the season has gone on, and has kept games close against Brophy, Mountain Ridge and Mesquite. Highland’s defense is solid, but the offense has had trouble putting up points this year. This one should be close.
Prediction: Highland 17, Gilbert 14
— Kyle Odegard
Northwest Christian at Scottsdale Christian: The 2A Central Region title will be decided, but not just in this game. Northwest Christian, Scottsdale Christian and Tempe Prep (who hosts Camp Verde) are all 3-1 in the region. Northwest Christian’s game plan is simple: feed the ball to Casey Jahn (1,495 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns) and force the Eagles to stop him. The Eagles have the people to do it in linebacker Josh O’Neill and linemen Luke Sivek and K.J. Gould, so if Scottsdale Christian can get a lead, that will force the Crusaders to change their strategy. In its previous marquee game, Scottsdale Christian came out strong and shut down Valley Christian. Add in the emotion of it being Senior Night and the Eagles should fly in this one. A win by the Eagles and a Tempe Prep win over Camp Verde means Tempe Prep will be region champ.
Prediction: Scottsdale Christian 28, Northwest Christian 13
— Steve Burks