Well, that was interesting.
After 10 weeks — remember way back when Mountain Pointe played at (Las Vegas) Bishop Gorman to begin the 2013 football season? Barely — more scrutiny, off-the-field news, kids setting records, programs turning around, programs falling apart, another messy coaching change at Corona del Sol, and needing to do a “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” to get the playoff seedings correct ... it’s playoff time.
Now, it’s about matchups, who’s healthy and doesn’t turn the ball over.
Actually, it’s those three things and much, much more.
September football is different than August football. October trumps September. November trumps them all.
Get ready for the pursuit of glory, but not before the obligatory bracket breakdown of the best, worst and weirdest about to unfold:
In Division I, it’s hard not to see No. 1 Mountain Pointe in the semifinals given the matchups, where the Pride will face either No. 4 Desert Ridge or No. 5 Avondale Westview (those schools could meet in the quarterfinals which could be an absolutely fantastic matchup).
No. 3 Hamilton has a pretty solid draw, and if the Huskies get a few starters back for the playoffs as they believe they will, the semifinals (at least) look pretty promising.
Poor Skyline. What a turnaround and No. 2 Chandler’s offense is what the Coyotes get for it. Oh, if only they could have held on that final play against Desert Mountain.
Regardless, it’s hard to go against the seeding.
Final Four: Mountain Pointe, Chandler, Hamilton, Desert Ridge (in a thriller over Westview).
In Div. II, how about Mesquite and Campo Verde again in the quarterfinals? It’s lined up that way, if Campo Verde can find its running game and confidence again. Mesquite shut down Campo Verde on Friday night to end the regular season, but who knows the second time around.
Again, it’s hard to against the seeding in Div. II.
(I know, b-o-r-i-n-g).
Final Four: Salpointe Catholic, Chaparral, Centennial, Mesquite.
In Div. III, Williams Field’s schedule (playing Show Low, Mesquite, Saguaro, Queen Creek, etc...) ultimately vaulted the Black Hawks to the No. 1 spot ahead of No. 2 Saguaro (which is a little head-scratching given Saguaro beat WF, but it does put them on opposite sides of the bracket which could be a really good thing). Higley will get QB Tyler Bloom back this week, but at No. 9, still has a rough road having to play at Tucson Canyon del Oro, then Williams Field again if the Knights beat CDO. Then again, another Williams Field vs. Queen Creek matchup in the semifinals looks pretty juicy.
Say it again: b-o-r-i-n-g.
Final Four: Williams Field, Queen Creek, Saguaro, Desert Edge.
Combs deserves a whole lot of credit for getting into the playoffs after what’s happened (or not happened) at the school for the first four years of its existence, but a matchup with Seton Catholic to open the first postseason berth is rugged. Granted, being a No. 16 might be worse, having to play No. 1 Show Low. Being the No. 14 wouldn’t be much better having to play No. 3 Snowflake. Ultimately, it sets up a likely rematch between No. 2 Seton Catholic and No. 3 Snowflake in the semifinals (Snowflake won the regular season matchup in what was a sloppy thriller). Still, it’s Show Low and then everyone else.
Don’t expect many upsets (yeah, we just jinxed it) this week, but that matchups are good. If that stays true to form, the following week is going to be a whopper of a quarterfinals.
There are many matchups of merit coming up Friday so let’s cut to the chase:
Division I: No. 9 Red Mountain at No. 8 Highland is an absolute pick-’em, the bummer being the winner gets No. 1 Mountain Pointe in the quarterfinals. We’ve already heard they’re setting the bar at 88 total points between No. 10 Basha and No. 7 Horizon. Rematches as well with No. 13 Desert Mountain going back to No. 4 Desert Ridge, a shootout of sorts won by the Jaguars on Oct. 25. It’ll happen again. Mountain View and Pinnacle is a redux, except when Pinnacle won 28-25 in Week 5, Mountain View still had most of its lineup.
Speaking of scoring about 130 points, who’s up for Chandler vs. Horizon in the quarterfinals?
In Div. II, Marcos de Niza and Tucson Ironwood Ridge tangle yet again (Ironwood Ridge beat the Padres twice last season, including at Marcos), but with Marcos QB Josh Eckley mobile again, and an Ironwood Ridge team completely different from last year’s championship squad, the Padres are in OK shape. Again, that would set up a Chaparral-Marcos de Niza quarterfinals matchup.
Higley and Tempe have tough roads right away in Div. III, but East Valley schools in Div. V really got the short end of things. No. 12 Tempe Prep didn’t score for the first three weeks of the season (against Yuma Catholic, Show Low and Northwest Christian) and hasn’t lost a game since, including a crazy win over Scottsdale Prep on Friday night. The Knights have to play at Northwest Christian again, but this Tempe Prep version is significantly better than what the defending-champion Crusaders saw two months ago. The ol’ 12-vs.-5 upset alert is buzzing here.
No. 14 San Tan Foothills has to go to No. 2 Yuma Catholic and No. 15 Scottsdale Prep has to play surging Joy Christian, where the Spartans’ high-flying offense vanished from radar in a 50-0 loss to Joy Christian in Week 1.
• Corona del Sol: The Aztecs were winless through early October (0-6) and went through another messy coaching change. They beat Dobson and then were shellacked by Mountain Pointe. Which way did the Aztecs go? Ask Desert Vista and Notre Dame, both of whom were thumped by Corona in consecutive weeks and took their respective playoff hopes home with them. The school should open up its upcoming coaching search and do a wide search, but Kelly showed in the final month that — after falling short a couple times — he deserves a chance to try and revitalize the program.
• Noe Pereles: Mesa’s had a few top kickers come through before (often thanks to the boys soccer team), but Pereles set school records for field goals this season (10) and in a career (14), and missed two field goals all season. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities, but the kid can kick, as evidence by his three field goals of at least 40 yards.
• Premature posting: The AIA/MaxPreps gaffe Saturday morning in which the formula wasn't completely updated when brackets were first unveiled led to another apology and backlash before it was fixed and playoff seedings were correctly recalculated. Prescott got the worst of it, going from playoff-bound to out of the postseason in 15 minutes, and others dropped a couple spots in the final unveilings. The important thing is it was eventually done correctly. The problem is it does nothing but further disillusion coaches and fans surrounding these nearly-uncrackable equations. By Week 10, the seedings were accurate, or least understandable as to why a team finished where it did, but people already anxious to turn one hiccup into another rallying cry for transparency received more ammunition for their case.
• Weak schedules: Goodyear Desert Edge went undefeated in the regular season, was No. 1 in the Division III power rankings all year, then fell to the No. 3 seed for the playoffs. Why? The strength of schedule number. Tempe was 9-1 and the No. 10 seed because of its weak section games. The Buffaloes now have to play at No. 7 Tucson Sabino, and then No. 2 Saguaro if they’re fortunate to win in Tucson first. It’s all very inexact because it’s a combination of your section with projecting months ahead of time, but sometimes it’s better for the resumé to schedule (and lose to) top competition team than beat bad teams.
• Combs’ fortunes: Talk about a turnaround not unlike what Mesquite and Skyline have done, Jesse Hart’s first year at Combs moved the Coyotes from 1-9 last year to 6-4 and a playoff spot as the school’s third coach in four years. The Coyotes should be near the bottom of the seedings, and thrilled to have made it here, except the “reward” is playing at No. 2 Seton Catholic, which beat Combs 56-21 three weeks ago. Ugh.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.