A relaxing weekend? More like heart-attack helper. We already know Peoria Centennial and Chandler Hamilton are the teams to beat in 5A, and Scottsdale Notre Dame is again evolving into one in 4A Division II.
Beyond that, however, was a Friday night in which seven games involving East Valley schools were decided by seven points or fewer.
One went to overtime (Phoenix Brophy-Chandler). Another went to double-overtime (Paradise Valley-Cave Creek Cactus Shadows).
Intermixed was the wild, the down-to-the-wire and the kind of photo finishes that leave coaches, players and fans as Saturday (and even Sunday) insomniacs.
From Phoenix Pinnacle to Queen Creek, Brophy to Gilbert Mesquite and Cactus Shadows to Gilbert Highland, the Friday frenetics also give credence to the theory that if anyone can knock off the aforementioned frontrunners, the regions and playoffs are anyone’s oyster.
Centennial, Hamilton, Notre Dame and even Scottsdale Saguaro haven’t been bitten on the heels yet, but — win or lose — the quartet will be. If — or when — that happens, it also promises to be a night full of ulcers.
Blocked extra points, diving catches in the end zone, two fumbles in five minutes, a 21-0 lead evaporating and 200-yard rushers whose teams don’t triumph.
That was crazy Week 5, when teenagers took to the field and their spectators couldn’t keep enough Maalox.
Drew Seaman became Desert Mountain’s starting quarterback last week to upgrade the passing game, but he was crunched by Gilbert Highland on a fourth-quarter play and injured his left shoulder during Highland’s remarkable comeback against the Wolves.
Both Red Mountain running back Derek Molina (hamstring) and backup Dominic Smith left in the second half and didn’t return, and Gilbert Mesquite quarterback Steven Hansen left Friday’s game with a sprained ankle.
The biggest game next Friday could be in Tucson, where Saguaro puts its 37-game winning streak on the line against top dogs Tucson Canyon del Oro and whiz kid runner Ka’deem Carey.
The big Chandler city game between the Wolves and Hamilton is Friday night at Hamilton. The Wolves haven’t won one of these yet, but Chandler will quickly replace Phoenix Desert Vista as the Huskies’ toughest test this season, whether ASU commit Taylor Walstad (knee) returns to the Wolves’ backfield this week or not.
No. 4 Brophy plays at No. 2 Mesa Red Mountain in what could be a Brophy-Chandler sequel. Highland and Mesquite collide, Queen Creek must travel to Glendale Cactus for a battle of top 4A-I teams, and Chandler Valley Christian considers Phoenix Christian to be a top rival even though the latter has struggled this season.
This week’s top performances:
Jacom Brimhall, Mountain View, 252 all-purpose yards, 4 TDs, 2-point conversion
Zach Bauman, Hamilton, 219 yards, 4 TDs
Kevin Radcliffe, Desert Mountain, 219 yards, TD
Tyree Parker, Paradise Valley, 216 yards, 2 TDs
De’Andre Currie, Mountain Pointe, 198 yards, 4 TDs
Michael Allen, Hamilton, 148 yards, 3 TDs
Max Leonesio, 144 yards, TD
Trevor Forbis, Queen Creek, 131 yards, TD
Austin Williams, McClintock, 101 yards, 3 TDs
Jaymen Green, Mesa, 130 total yards, 2 TDs
Kevin Pantastico, Desert Ridge, 372 yards, 3 TDs
Colby Kirkegaard, Arcadia, 217 yards, 3 TDs, 2 TD runs
Michael Benjamin, Basha, 283 yards, 3 TDs, TD rush
Zach Shira, Marcos de Niza, 232 yards, 4 TDs
John O’Connor, Red Mountain, 226 yards, TD
Will King, Notre Dame, 206 yards, 2 TDs
Alex Cappellini, Pinnacle, 198 yards, 2 TDs
Brett Hundley, Chandler, 165 all-purpose yards, 3 TDs
Dillon Classen, Cactus Shadows, 146 yards,
3 TDs, 2-point conversion
Sam Papa, Desert Ridge, 133 yards, TD
Skyler McCurdy, Notre Dame, 118 yards, TD
Richard Parker, Basha, 117 yards, TD
Alex Zemezonak, Pinnacle, 103 yards, TD
Jordan Becerra, Desert Ridge, 100 yards, TD
Tevin Newell, Marcos de Niza, 96 yards
Kyler Fackrell, Mesa, 92 yards
Chase Blackwell, Mountain Pointe, 80 yards, 2 TDs
Max Eller, Brophy, 72 yards, diving 28-yard TD to force overtime
Cameron Clemente, Highland, 2 rushing TDs, 2pt. conversion, game-winning TD reception as time expired.
Maka Taufa, Mesquite, Two fumble recoveries set up a TD and an offensive recovery he converted into a game-clinching first-down run against Corona del Sol.
Billy Sueing, Westwood, Two touchdowns, two-point conversion and INT on defense.
Tommy Murphy, Cactus Shadows, school-record eighth consecutive game with INT.
Danny Clark, Saguaro, 2 rushing TDs, fumble recovery for TD
Kyle Guanell, Red Mountain, 2 INTs, 5 tackles
Nate Scola, Apache Junction, 133 yards rushing, TD, 12 tackles
• What happened to the Phoenix Arcadia defense that couldn’t stop anyone? The Titans put a 49-7 whooping on rival Coronado for the first time since they did something similar in 2005, which means it was the first such victory for anyone on the Titans roster.
Colby Kirkegaard continues to make a case as a top-three quarterback in the East Valley, and any Arcadia ghosts of playoffs past evaporated. When you get thumped by a rival twice in three games the previous year and it knocks you out of the playoffs, this is one way to call it even.
• Saguaro survived its second of four key matchups en route to a possible state record for consecutive wins. The Sabercats are up to 37, three shy of tying Mesa Mountain View. The trendy streak-snapper in many people’s eyes is this week, because the Sabercats have to play at Canyon del Oro (ranked No. 1 in 4A-I, according to us) and, in Ka’deem Carey, possibly the best running back in the state.
John Sanders’ squad also gets Cave Creek Cactus Shadows on Oct. 16. Peoria Centennial (31 consecutive wins) and Scottsdale Notre Dame (27) had no trouble stretching their streaks either, but the Saints should be fine until Arcadia on Oct. 16 and the Coyotes have Mesa Red Mountain on Oct. 23.
Until then, streak on.
• On a night when rare turnovers and penalties became problematic, Brophy’s special teams came up big against Chandler. Alex Garoutte hit two field goals and three extra points (including the game-winner in overtime) and had four touchbacks on kickoffs. The Broncos also blocked an extra point in overtime and chased down a botched field-goal attempt by Chandler in the second quarter.
• This writer isn’t about to call Basha’s offense a track meet, but the Bears do have the best quarterback in the Central Region thus far in QB Michael Benjamin, and that’s saying something, because six of the region’s seven starting signal-callers (or at least guys who saw significant playing time) from last year returned.
A 71 percent completion rate, 182 yards per game, nearly seven yards per carry as the team’s leading rusher and a 4-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio is the biggest reason Basha coach Tim McBurney received a bath after beating Gilbert to start 3-1 this season.
• We’ll get to the Desert Mountain fiasco down below, but what a nice night for Highland fullback Cameron Clemente. He had eight carries for 42 yards and two touchdowns, he caught a 2-point conversion that gave Highland a 22-21 lead and then caught the eventual game-winning score with the clock running out.
That finished what he started with an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter, and he also recovered a fumble.
• Earth to Corona del Sol: Where have you gone? The Aztecs (1-3) were listless again through most of their Central Region home opener against Gilbert Mesquite.
Things are only getting worse, with four turnovers and a potential game-winning touchdown pass being dropped in the end zone (it wasn’t the first drop either) in a 19-14 loss. Both the offensive and defensive lines have been a mess this season. Michael Lange was a 1,400-yard rusher last season; he has 250 yards through four games this season.
If speculation ultimately proves correct and this is Gary Venturo’s last season coaching, this wasn’t the “bon voyage” plan.
• In the quest for its first playoff berth since 1997, everything began picture-perfect for Scottsdale Desert Mountain through three games, but Friday’s 28-27 meltdown at Highland brought back chilling flashbacks of yesteryear.
Yes, the Wolves showed some pluckiness behind Kevin Radcliffe after they lost quarterback Drew Seaman to a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, but a 21-0 lead while dominating the line of scrimmage through three quarters was smeared out by two fumbles and a 76-yard kickoff return by the Hawks.
The Wolves can still get into the playoffs given their remaining schedule, but 50 points were just booted away, and they won’t get much help from opponents’ power points. Ride the bus home with Wolves coach Tony Tabor? No, thanks. I’d rather have walked.
• What are the odds that rushing for more than 200 yards would be a curse? Allan Woods (Glendale Cactus) did it against Saguaro, Radcliffe did it for Desert Mountain against Highland, and Paradise Valley’s Tyree Parker surpassed 200 against Cactus Shadows. All three players’ teams lost. Only Chandler Hamilton’s Zach Bauman topped 200 yards and got a win for his troubles.