Campo Verde at Mesquite
Campo Verde at Mesquite: An unexpected (especially in Mesquite’s case) but delicious matchup between these Gilbert schools, both sitting in the top 8 in Division II. In many ways they’re identical: They’re going to run the ball, use it to set up the pass, play defense and hit hard. It’s going to be physical and emotional. The key will be whether one team can properly handle those emotions and adrenaline, and which team is able to succeed offensively against the other. Both Mesquite QB Payton Haslam and Campo Verde QB Luke Pineda have been extremely efficient passing and running the ball. Pineda is completing 70 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and zero (yes, zero) interceptions this season. Both teams have running backs (Mesquite’s Paul Perry and Campo Verde’s Gabe Ogbonnaya) who’ve been forces most of the season. Mesquite’s offensive line has been excellent. So, too, has Campo Verde’s defensive line. Even common opponents have yielded similar results in those handful of occasions. The back-and-forth here could go on and on. It’s going to be a good, low-scoring, physical night. Mesquite (No. 3 seed) will get two home games in the playoffs if it wins here to secure a top-four seed (not bad after a 2-8 record in 2012). If Campo Verde (No. 7) loses, it puts the Coyotes into the “unknown” whether they can hang on to a No. 8 seed and get one home game. Pick your preference.
Prediction: Mesquite 24, Campo Verde 21
Wiliams Field at Higley
Williams Field at Higley: It could be a real shame this might be a shorthanded matchup for Higley if QB Tyler Bloom isn’t able to play because of a shoulder injury. The Knights will find out around the 23rd hour if he’s medically cleared, but without practice time this week and the playoffs upcoming, there’s a good chance Higley would have already made up its mind to have him sit this one out. If that’s the case, the Knights would be pressed into a run-heavy offense, and that could work with Ricky Marshall (1,002 yards, 15 touchdowns) so long as the Knights don’t turn the ball over. The problem is a one-dimensional-style offense hasn’t worked against Williams Field (see last week vs. Peoria Shadow Ridge). Higley might still try to throw the ball some with backups, but it won’t be the same. The other part of this equation is Williams Field’s balanced offense (which Higley normally is) is going to cause fits with Higley’s defense. The Black Hawks can beat you in a few ways, starting with Jacob Anderson running and Jeddediah Fagg-to-Cole Forsgren combination through the air. Perhaps they’ll meet again down the road this season, and if Higley is healthier, would at least be a closer contest than most in the schools’ brief history.
Prediction: Williams Field 41, Higley 21
Red Mountain at Skyline
Red Mountain at Skyline: It’s the last of the Mesa schools’ round-robin tournament (which includes Desert Ridge at Mountain View this week). Thanks to Skyline’s surge this season (which likely will include a playoff spot win or lose here), this game has potential postseason implications for both schools. Red Mountain (No. 10) is trying to join Basha, Desert Mountain and Brophy has schools with a .500 record (or below) who make the top 16, thanks to brutal strength of schedules. The Lions put the hammer down on shorthanded Mountain View last week, and while the Toros being significantly hampered by injuries is a factor, so, too is the Lions’ defense and quarterback play. Both will come in handy this week against Skyline, whose leading rusher, Francisco Avitia, re-aggravated an injury last week against Mesa. Truman Tucker did an excellent job in relief (112 yards on nine carries, 66 yards receiving), but can the Coyotes stop a dual-threat QB in Caleb Murray-Thomas? The Lions best be prepared because Skyline is going to ready and are well-coached, so this won’t be like the past three of four meetings. As long as Red Mountain doesn’t turn the ball over and cuts down on penalties a little, the Lions can squeak this out. But the margin for error is nowhere near what it used to be.
Prediction: Red Mountain 24, Skyline 17
Brophy at Desert Vista
Brophy at Desert Vista: The wildest and perhaps most confusing of possible Division I playoff scenarios lies here, with Brophy (No. 15) not quite sure if it needs a win to hang on, and Desert Vista (No. 17) pretty much needs a win to have a chance. There is, however, still some chance the Thunder could get in even in a loss, depending on what happens above them in the power rankings, though that seems like a longshot. As for the game, Desert Vista is reeling a bit after last week’s loss to Corona del Sol, in which the Aztecs defended and ran right at the Thunder all night, especially the first half. Brophy would like to do much the same, and the Thunder are going to have a tough task in putting up points on Brophy’s defense. A glimmer of hope remains for Desert Vista, and even if the Thunder lose, they should try to sleep with some optimism on Friday night knowing they pulled every conceivable option out of its bag to win this game. But it’s been that kind of year for Desert Vista.
Prediction: Brophy 20, Desert Vista 14
Chandler at Highland
Chandler at Highland: Highland coach Pete Wahlheim was pretty emotional after beating Basha two weeks ago on a last-second field goal. Highland gave Hamilton everything it could handle last week in a close loss, and if his Hawks can knock off Chandler this week, Gilbert might make Nov. 1 as Pete Wahlheim Day. OK, maybe not, but the Wolves aren’t about to dismiss Highland based on what Highland has done against the other Chandler schools this season, let alone a 5-1 record the past six weeks. However, the Wolves are playing about as well as anyone in the state the past four weeks, and the offense has so many dangerous parts, even a defense as good as Highland is going to have trouble keeping up. The Hawks have shown they’re capable of putting up some points, even if the numbers are never glamorous. They’re unquestionably going to have to score touchdowns, but the Hawks also can’t get in any kind of a shootout. It’s a thorny juxtaposition, as Chandler looks to enter the postseason as a No. 2 seed on a roll.
Prediction: Chandler 35, Highland 24