There is a saying that, no matter how it is accomplished, a win is a win.
It was correct in last year’s Division III title game, when Queen Creek emerged victorious on an errant Goodyear Desert Edge punt snap which resulted in a safety as time ticked down. The Bulldogs will forever be 2012 state champions, and it doesn’t matter how it came about.
At this point in the season, though, as teams jostle for playoff positioning, there is much more to it than just winning. Style points matter.
Many of the favorites on Friday night came away victorious, but the manner was underwhelming.
Here’s a look at a few games in which the outcome doesn’t tell the whole story:
• Desert Mountain 50, Skyline 49: The Wolves escaped with the one-point victory on a late two-point conversion, but they seem to be worlds away from the team that led Chaparral 28-0 in the first half on Sept. 20. Since then, Desert Mountain has gone 2-3 and should be worried more about qualifying for the playoffs than competing for the title. The Wolves have two of the best players in the state between quarterback Kyle Allen and wide receiver Mark Andrews, but other areas have been problematic. Skyline running back Francisco Avitia had 329 yards rushing and six touchdowns in the contest, and Desert Mountain may exit the postseason early if the Wolves can’t step up their run defense. Even though Skyline began the year 5-0, this is the most encouraging outcome of the season. The Coyotes built up their record against easy competition, and going toe-to-toe with a top program like Desert Mountain is a huge step forward.
• Mountain View 42, Mesa 24: First and foremost, the Toros are very banged up, so maybe this game will be the anomaly moving forward. However, the Toros trailed by a touchdown in the third quarter before finally pulling away behind the passing duo of quarterback John Clark and star wide receiver Clark Brown. Mesa is scrappy, but Mountain View needs to put teams like this away much faster. The Toros are 6-2 on the season and in good shape to make the playoffs, but will likely be the underdog in their final two games against Red Mountain and Desert Ridge. The Toros have some good parts, but must come up with a signature win to be considered a viable playoff threat.
• Highland 24, Basha 21: This is the exact type of game the Hawks pride themselves in, and there’s little to discount on their side of things. Highland fell behind early but got big plays from its running game and defense to pull off the upset. While Basha should be discouraged with the loss, there’s very little reason to believe the Bears won’t be a threat down the stretch. The team’s passing game has kept it in every contest, and the 4-4 record is not indicative of the team’s true ability. Basha may be a double-digit seed come playoff time, but it will be one all higher seeds hope to avoid in the first round.
• Higley 40, McClintock 18: This outcome makes it seem like the Knights rolled, but McClintock led 12-0 early and the game was competitive until the fourth quarter. Higley has shown flashes of dominance this year, and at 7-1 is one of the better teams in Division III, but there are still some inconsistencies preventing it from being on the same plane as Desert Edge, Saguaro, Williams Field and Queen Creek.
While the results of those games may not tell the whole story, there was one game that certainly did:
• Williams Field 42, Queen Creek 17: The Bulldogs had both Weston Barlow and Matt Guida in the lineup, yet the Black Hawks used their powerful offense to pull away. Not only does the victory leapfrog Williams Field past Queen Creek in the rankings, the Black Hawks now must be considered a legitimate threat to Saguaro and Desert Edge in Division III. The Black Hawks lost to Saguaro last week, but showed great resolve in rallying from a large deficit in that game. The team looks to be coming together at the right time, as the return of star receiver Cole Forsgren from a broken hand has pushed the offense to another level. Queen Creek, meanwhile, has some work to do if it hopes to repeat as champions.
Basha and Chandler played one of the most entertaining games of 2012, as the Wolves rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit for the win. If Chandler can win again, it cements itself as one of the top contenders to Mountain Pointe in Division I. Basha is licking its wounds after losing to Highland but has the type of offense that may be able to hang around.
There are three interesting games in Mesa on Friday night, as Red Mountain plays at Mountain View, Skyline heads to Mesa and Desert Mountain travels to Desert Ridge. Playoff seeding and pecking orders will be clearer after these contests.
Horizon gets its first big test since Week 1 against Pinnacle in what should be a high-scoring affair, while Mesquite-Marcos de Niza, Shadow Ridge-Williams Field, Highland-Hamilton, Poston Butte-Campo Verde and Higley-Saguaro are interesting games in an action-packed week.
Skyline: The Coyotes lost to Desert Mountain, 50-49, but went punch-for-punch throughout and led by a touchdown with under three minutes remaining. Running back Francisco Avitia piled up 329 yards and six touchdowns, and while the loss wasn’t the desired result, the Coyotes should be proud of themselves for competing. Skyline was 14th in the power points before the contest, so next week’s game against Mesa seems like a must-win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Williams Field: The Black Hawks were dominated by Queen Creek last season and returned the favor on Friday night in the 42-17 win. Williams Field was the underdog heading into the game mostly based off last year’s matchup, but proved it is much more explosive in 2013. The Black Hawks improved to 7-1 and vaulted itself into the state title discussion alongside Desert Edge and Saguaro.
Gilbert Christian: The Knights defeated Gila Bend, 54-0, to finish a 9-0 regular season. Gilbert Christian beat Valley Lutheran by three points on Sept. 28, and besides that, has been unchallenged in the regular season. While it’s still known as a basketball school, the football team has the look of a contender. The Division VI playoffs begin next week and Gilbert Christian will likely be the top seed, earning a bye in the first round.
Basha mistakes: The Bears led Highland by two touchdowns late in the third quarter but lost on a last-second field goal. Basha had the ball in a tie game late in the fourth quarter, but several errors led to its demise. Running back Rajhan Meriwether fumbled the ball with 4:30 left and Highland recovered at its 36. The Hawks were subsequently stopped short on 3rd-and-21 but a roughing the passer penalty continued the drive. Noah Miller missed a go-ahead 40-yard field goal, but a roughing the kicker penalty again gave Highland new life. The Hawks milked the clock and Miller hit a 27-yard field goal as time expired for the 24-21 victory.