Hamilton vs. Desert Ridge
Desert Ridge has only been held under 30 points twice this season, but it happened in the first matchup against Hamilton and again last week against Westview. The Jaguars scored 14 points apiece in those two games, and another low-scoring output could be on the horizon. With its two biggest playmakers, quarterback Tarek Morrison and running back J.J. Husar, out for the season with torn anterior cruciate ligaments, the Jaguars must figure out a way to score against a tough Huskies’ defense. Desert Ridge’s offensive line found its groove midway through the season and will need to collectively have the game of its life to give the Jaguars a chance. The Desert Ridge defense can’t just play well but also come up with some advantageous turnovers to help out the offense.
Prediction: Hamilton 24, Desert Ridge 7
— Kyle Odegard
Brophy vs. Mountain Pointe
Brophy running back Marche Dennard carved up the Mountain Pointe defense in the first matchup, rushing 28 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns. He only carried the ball eight times last week, though, because of a sprained ankle, and his health will be a huge factor in the outcome of this one. Broncos wide receiver Devon Allen is also battling a sprained ankle, and those two injuries have switched Brophy from a favorite to an underdog in this one. Mountain Pointe is playing well and controlled the first half of the regular season game against Brophy before falling apart after intermission. If the Pride can run the ball well and rely on its defense, it has a solid chance at advancing to the first state title game appearance in school history.
Prediction: Mountain Pointe 27, Brophy 21
— Kyle Odegard
Marcos de Niza vs. Ironwood Ridge
The Padres seem to be clicking as they defeated Chaparral, 49-36, in the quarterfinals behind 320 rushing yards from running back Mauriece Lee. He was completely neutralized (six carries, two yards) in the regular season game against Ironwood Ridge, the Padres’ only loss of the year. Ironwood Ridge also knocked off Centennial this season, so it’s shown the ability to play with the elite Division II teams. Marcos de Niza probably has more talent on its roster, but a pair of blocked punts early in the first matchup spelled doom. If the Padres can avoid mistakes like those, they seem to have a good chance of winning this one.
Prediction: Marcos de Niza 34, Ironwood Ridge 31
— Kyle Odegard
Queen Creek vs. Nogales
The Bulldogs experienced the toughest test of their season last week against Thunderbird as they trailed heading into the fourth quarter, but pulled out a 28-17 victory. The competition level might actually decrease against No. 14 Nogales, which has been the Cinderella of the playoffs with wins over No. 3 Sabino and No. 11 Sunrise Mountain. But the Apaches have nothing to lose and have been playing very well, so Queen Creek must be ready. Running back Matt Guida should have another big game, as a state title appearance is within the Bulldogs’ grasp.
Prediction: Queen Creek 35, Nogales 13.
— Kyle Odegard
Williams Field vs. Desert Edge
Beating Phoenix Thunderbird and Peoria Liberty this season in convincing fashion showed Desert Edge it was a good team in Division III. Beating Saguaro after trailing 21-3 at halftime last week, showed Desert Edge is the real deal and worthy of its place in the semifinals. Williams Field did a nice job defensively on containing Liberty QB Tyler Rogers, but Desert Edge has plenty of speed and offensive weaponery that goes beyond just quarterback Sawyer Lung or RB Kyle Woolard (whom Williams Field coach Steve Campbell compared to former Black Hawks stud Alex Howard). The Black Hawks have gotten great production from RB Sean Schweichler on offense and in punt returns the past couple weeks, and Desert Edge will try and collapse the middle of WF’s defense with tackle R.J. Tui (285 pounds). Williams Field will score some points with Schweichler and it’s passing game but Desert Edge is going to be a handful to handle defensively. WF will try and not let Desert Edge make huge plays vertically in the passing game, instead making DE go 8-10 plays and prove it can be patient. Problem is, Desert Edge can do that and more with its speed.
Prediction: Desert Edge 24, Williams Field 20
— Mark Heller
Seton Catholic vs. Show Low
Seton Catholic showed some grit and serenity in coming back to score two touchdowns in the final six minutes of its quarterfinal game to win last week against Cottonwood Mingus. Mingus is good but Show Low is another level better, and whether the Sentinels truly have learned what it’s like and equipped themselves to face a White Mountain-type team will be tested. Seton’s QB play (either David Gesicki or Ryan Bresnahan) has been a huge boost all season but Show Low has seen it before. Show Low ran for 259 yards in a loss to Blue Ridge and can throw enough to be effective, while Seton has either been superb (6 INT returns for touchdowns) or struggled in the secondary (ie. last week). Seton will do everything it needs to stay in this game, it’s just hard to against the more physical, experienced bunch.
Prediction: Show Low 28, Seton Catholic 24
— Mark Heller
Tempe Prep vs. Morenci
This one is a simple matchup of running game vs. running game; defense vs. defense. Tempe Prep has signature wins against NW Christian and Seton Catholic, though the Knights lost to an Arizona Lutheran Academy team which was blown out by Morenci in last week’s quarterfinals. Tommy Brittain’s Knights depend on the running of Levi Hartzler, Ahmari Underwood and Forest Redlin to move the ball, and a stifling defense. Morenci does much the same with 3-4 guys getting a bulk of the carries. With similar styles and not many common opponents, it’s hard to look past those common teams’ results such as the Arizona Lutheran respective results, and Thatcher (a much larger margin of victory for Morenci).
Prediction: Morenci 20, Tempe Prep 14