Is revenge a dish best served in the playoffs?
Probably. And it's time to find out.
Not even a mini-monsoon in parts of the East Valley could prevent the first round of Division I's postseason from going according to plan, which is to say, painfully predictable.
The real action happened everywhere else, with Notre Dame continuing it's terrific, adverse story of a season, an unexpected nail-biter in Queen Creek and a couple mini-upsets with Arcadia (Div. III) and San Tan Foothills (Div. V) each winning after long road trips.
D.J. Foster apparently got revenge on the world (not just his coach) as Saguaro's Superman set rushing and scoring records. Connor Brewer did the same for Chaparral and a missed two-point conversion was the difference between Tempe Prep and Scottsdale Christian.
Meanwhile, Division I games were yawners with one extremely notable exception. No. 8 Avondale Westview and No. 9 Chandler played out well beyond even its seedings would indicate.
The Wolves won in overtime and face No. 1 Hamilton in the quarterfinals on Thursday night. B-o-r-i-n-g. (Joking). Chandler was on the verge of winning its first meeting between these neighbors in 15 years only to (literally) fumble away the fourth quarter. Chandler is equipped to once again attempt to end the longest public-school winning streak in the country (51 games for the Huskies), but the Wolves also lost stud running back Paul Perkins to injury in the second half against Westview. His game-time status is a big wild-card.
Up the road, No. 4 Desert Ridge is rolling again, with "again" inserted because No. 5 Red Mountain (which might be rolling even moreso) was the last to beat the Jaguars, 20-13, in late September. The Jaguars are getting healthy (how coincidental) and the approximately 115 variations of Jeremy Hathcock's spread rushing attack have been as good as the late-2010 version, and we know where that got them.
Loaded with potential and yet stuck in quicksand, Red Mountain has won eight consecutive games, third-best streak in Division I behind the Huskies and Brophy. A defense realizing its potential, a couple healthy receivers and shifting Marcus Brantley to running back has the Lions feeling better than ever.
Even in Division V, Tempe Prep gets another crack and No. 1-seed Phoenix Northwest Christian, which has the state's all-time rushing record-holder in Casey Jahn. The Knights lost 37-0 two weeks ago, and that was as close as anyone has played the defending 2A-champion Crusaders since Week 1.
No. 2 Brophy hosts No. 7 Basha, of which there is precious little history between these schools, but it could be really good. Basha's offense against Brophy's defense is the sight to see. The Bears' defense will have its hands full defending Brophy's superb passing game and an emerging D'Amani Grayer out of the backfield.
No. 3 Desert Vista beat No. 6 Pinnacle early in the 2009 regular season, so this doesn't qualify as "payback" either given how different both teams are these days, but it'll be a lot more interesting than Desert Vista-North Canyon or Pinnacle-Cibola.
With the clutter having been weeded out, Division I gets its due starting now.
The big one locally is in Division III, where No. 5 (yeah, right) Saguaro plays at No. 4 Queen Creek. The masses are still caught up in Sanders-gate from the Chaparral debacle two weeks ago, and there's no shortage of opinions about Saguaro's coach. The Bulldogs defense is legit, but they better a whole lot of offense real quick if they want to keep up. But D.J. Foster took out his frustration from not playing against Chaparral when he ran for 508 yards and 10 total touchdowns against Peoria Sunrise Mountain, both of which are state records. We'd say that's not likely to happen against Queen Creek, and it's not, but we've also learned never to make proclamations about what a John Sanders-coached team will do.
Josh Uhlorn is probably the best player in the East Valley to not show up on big-time recruiting websites, even though he has an Ivy League future. The senior quarterback/defensive back have to figuratively stand on his head again against No. 1 Chaparral on Thursday night the way he did to lead Perry over Basha last month. That is to say, it could happen.
Marcos de Niza knows a thing or two about losing to Perry (it happened last year), but the Padres have to play in Vail against No. 2 Cienega, which beat the Tucson Salpointe team that Notre Dame just knocked off.
It's back to Tucson for the second time in six days for Notre Dame, but the Saints aren't complaining about facing No. 6 Ironwood Ridge. Arcadia beat one Peoria school and now has to travel to play the other one in Liberty.
On Saturday afternoon, Seton Catholic meets Parker, which upset No. 5 Winslow, in a Div. III quarterfinal at Paradise Valley High School. In Div. V, San Tan Foothills gets Morenci on Saturday afternoon at Higley High School, a good chance for the Sabercats to continue their unlikely playoff run in the first year of varsity competition.
After that game, you could practically walk over to Williams Field to watch Tempe Prep and Northwest Christian.
•Notre Dame: Two weeks in a row? If you're going to lose your coach for the season, then win five straight to get into the playoffs, go to Tucson, fall behind 14-0 to No. 3 Salpointe (albeit a shorthanded Salpointe squad), then roar back behind Jordan Gehrke's career-high five touchdown passes, Maurice White and a stiff defense, then yes. The reward for this is a trip back to Tucson on a short week to face No. 6 Ironwood Ridge. But, for the second week in a row, who cares?
•Quarterbacks: What wind? Chaparral's Connor Brewer threw for 399 yards and tied a state record with 94 career touchdown passes. Jordan Gehrke (Notre Dame) threw for 270 yards and five touchdowns in Tucson. Marcos de Niza's Tommy Thornton threw for 200 yards and had four total touchdowns. The running game ruled the roost in Friday's dust storm, but a good quarterback can throw in (almost) any of Mother Nature's elements.
•San Tan Foothills: From 3-7 in 2010 to 7-4 and a trip to the Div. V state quarterfinals in its first varsity schedule, Rodger Schenks' new program on the southern fringe of Queen Creek knocked off a good Thatcher squad Friday night, 33-27. Now comes a real chance to make the semifinals with a win against No. 11 Morenci next Saturday. Though it says the Sabercats are a No. 14 seed, they're 5-2 since mid-September, beat Coolidge and lost a heartbreaker to Tempe Prep by one point.
•Non-East Valley schools in Div. I outside Westview: This was predicted in these pages on Friday. First-round clunkers ahoy. It's another piece of evidence that the power remains in the East Valley, and perhaps some tweaking to the playoff format is in order for the next two-year block, whether it's reducing the at-large bids who get in, dividing the sections geographically with an automatic bid to the section winner, or variations of all the other ideas that have been floated around.
•Queen Creek offense: There's no doubt weather was a factor here and most other places as well on Friday night, but points have been a struggle for the Bulldogs the last couple weeks (granted against Poston Butte and Williams Field defenses it's tough). The bigger problem is Queen Creek hosts Saguaro next week, and there's no controversy with the Sabercats when it comes to scoring points, so a 17-14 or 14-10 score Q.C. often plays in isn't likely. Barring a defensive performance for the ages, that means trouble for the Bulldogs.