Let’s review what’s happened, shall we?
Yes, there’s power rankings bewilderment, teams whose postseason hopes could spring alive or wither away this weekend and a lot of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling in between.
The waiting — which is what’s going to happen until late Saturday morning — is usually the hardest part
But whether agony, ecstasy or both is headed a school’s way, here’s a reminder to stop and reminisce first. Here’s our rehash of only some of what stuck in the craw through the first nine weeks of the 2012 season.
It’s admittedly incomplete, what with another drama-filled regular season left to be played on Friday night, but soon the banter will be about brackets and playoff football, and another wild three months might be quickly be forgotten.
The good news: The best 25 percent is still to come.
Best offensive player
Matt Guida, running back, Queen Creek: The Bulldogs have been so dominant this season, they haven’t often needed their star junior to be a workhorse. But when Guida gets the ball, he makes it count. Despite only 108 carries on the season, he is fifth in the state in rushing with 1,744 yards and has 21 touchdowns. Guida is averaging a state-best 16.15 yards per carry and has averaged in double-digits per rush in every game this year. Queen Creek has faced three legitimate tests this year, and Guida ran for 216 yards against Perry, 163 against Poston Butte and 252 against Campo Verde. The schedule has been easy, but even as it ramps up in the season finale against Williams Field and in the playoffs, don’t expect Guida to slow down.
Honorable mention: Mark Andrews, WR, Desert Mountain; Ryan Finley, QB, Paradise Valley; Luke Rubenzer, QB, Saguaro; Josh Eckley, QB, Marcos de Niza.
Best defensive player
Luke Taffuri, RB/LB, Notre Dame: Hamilton’s Cole Luke makes a pretty good case for this spot, but Taffuri gets the nod through the regular season. He’s made big play after big play on both sides of the ball against a rugged schedule as the Saints shoot for another playoff berth. A three-year starter, Taffuri has 74 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 INT, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble rec., besides being the team’s leading rusher with 737 yards and 10 TD, and rarely misses a snap.
Honorable mention: Cole Luke, DB/WR, Hamilton; Mike Graff, DB, Queen Creek; Robert Relf, LB, Brophy; Matt Haggerty, WR/DB, Seton Catholic
Hamilton: Nothing new here. Basha was as balanced and effective against Hamilton’s defense last week as anyone has been so far this season. The 27 points allowed by the Huskies against Notre Dame (Calif.) in Ireland are a season-high, but even that’s a bit misleading because of the four turnovers by Hamilton’s offense left Notre Dame with very short fields. Otherwise the Huskies held Mountain Pointe, Desert Ridge, Chandler and Desert Vista below 20 points. The Huskies have plenty of name recognition (Quelen Cunningham, Santana Sterling, Cole Luke, Luke Parrish), yet continue to excel as a sum even more than their individual parts.
Honorable mention: Queen Creek, Marcos de Niza
Chaparral 30, Notre Dame 27: The Firebirds trailed 27-12 with 5:20 remaining after a two-yard touchdown run by Notre Dame’s Luke Taffuri. However, Chaparral marched quickly down the field for a score and then caused a quick three-and-out. The Firebirds converted a 4th-and-10 from their own 31 to keep the ensuing drive alive and scored on a 5-yard run by Emerson Carrethers. Jake Roh hauled in the two-point conversion pass and then intercepted Saints quarterback Nick Duckworth on the next possession to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Honorable mention: Chandler 41, Basha 31; Williams Field 32, Poston Butte 29 (OT); Marcos de Niza 29, Chaparral 27.
Best coaching move
Desert Ridge finds power: The Jaguars were viewed as underdogs in a matchup with then-undefeated Red Mountain on Sept. 28, but an all-in game plan resulted in an easy victory. Desert Ridge lined up with a pair of tight ends, a fullback and two running backs without any wide receivers on almost every play, running the ball up the gut of the Lions’ defense. Desert Ridge carried the ball 45 times for 372 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-8 victory. Quarterback Tarek Morrison attempted only one pass and it went for no gain.
Honorable mention: Hamilton moving Cole Luke to offense; Mountain View using John Clark at quarterback.
Best coaching job
Chad DeGrenier, Mountain View: This seems like a near-impossibility given the school’s history and expectations, but DeGrenier and his staff have taken on the role of re-constructing this institution while dealing with player/family defections, enormous expectations (fair or not) and a different coaching background/philosophy than anything the school had previously seen. Up-in-arms by fans and alumni after the school’s first losing season in school history last year in DeGrenier’s first season, the Toros are 6-3 with wins against Red Mountain, Highland and Pinnacle, and have a chance at a home playoff game.
Honorable Mention: Joe Germaine (Queen Creek), Brian Walker (Tempe)
Paradise Valley 32, Saguaro 29: Saguaro’s post-John Sanders era began slowly when it dropped the season opener to the Trojans. The two-time defending champion Sabercats were missing three-fourths of their secondary, including star Christian Kirk, and Trojans quarterback Ryan Finley took advantage by throwing for 346 yards and four touchdowns. Paradise Valley led for most of the game but Saguaro took a late 29-25 lead on a touchdown catch by Brett Adams. Finley answered by driving the Trojans down the field and finding Joey Gatewood in the end zone with one second left for the victory.
Honorable mention: Red Mountain 33, Brophy 31; Mountain Pointe 17, Hamilton 14; Tempe Prep 24, Seton Catholic 21.
Best surprise player
Emanuel Gant, quarterback, Tempe: Any signal-caller who starts on varsity as a freshman — like Gant did in 2011 — is a special player, but after an up-and-down campaign it seemed like one more year of seasoning may have been needed. However, Gant shot out of the gate with 290 passing yards and four touchdowns in a win over McClintock in the opener and hasn’t slowed down since. Gant is 180-of-259 for 2,668 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the year. He is second in the state in passing yards behind Finley and has led Tempe to a 6-3 record and a shot at the playoffs after the team went 1-19 the past two seasons.
Honorable mention: Drake Pierre, WR, Red Mountain; Clark Brown, WR/DB/PR, Mountain View; Josh Hoekstra, RB, Pinnacle; Garette Craig, RB/DB, Mountain Pointe; David Gesicki, QB, Seton Catholic
Biggest surprise team
Tempe: The transformation from a combined 1-19 in 2010 and 2011, to a possible playoff team began last year, when kids such as QB Emanuel Gant, RB Raija Holt, WR Sebastian Watkins, LB Oscar Carrizosa and DB Trevin McKinney were pushed around and beaten up on the field and scoreboard. They stayed the course, stuck together and didn’t allow the controversy of leaving at halftime against Saguaro effect future weeks, and while the Buffaloes knew they were an improved team, nobody else on the outside did. With most kids having so many more dynamics at play in their lives and struggles beyond football, the Buffaloes (6-3 in Div. III) have been one of the better stories.
Honorable mention: Mountain View, Highland
Best individual performance
Desert Ridge running back J.J. Husar vs. Basha: The Bears knew all too well what J.J. Husar could do because he led the team in rushing as a junior in 2011. He transferred to Desert Ridge after the season and returned to Basha as a member of the Jaguars on Oct. 5. He played a crucial role on offense in the Jaguars’ 48-28 victory, carrying the ball 18 times for 247 yards and two touchdowns and catching a 52-yard score. He was just as good in the secondary, picking off a pass in the end zone and forcing a fumble as Basha running back Rajhan Meriwether attempted to score.
Honorable mention: Matt Haggerty’s three interceptions, six catches, 74 yards, receiving TD, rushing TD vs. Tempe; Clark Brown’s two punt return TD, four catches, 64 yards, TD vs. Pinnacle; Ryan Finley’s 346 passing yards and four TD, including the game-winner with one second left vs. Saguaro.