No. 4 Chandler at Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
The Wolves are off to a great start with a pair of easy wins against Centennial and Buena. They now begin one of the toughest month-long stretches anyone could imagine, with Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco (2-0), Hamilton and Mountain Pointe all on the docket among the next four games. Bryce Perkins has played very well in his first two games at quarterback, while the team has found a gem in sophomore running back Chase Lucas. Star wide receiver Dionte Sykes caught two touchdowns in his season debut last week while fellow wideout Mitch McCulley also had a score after a quiet first week. Chandler (2-0) likely has the pieces to score, but the biggest question will be how it fares against St. John Bosco’s mammoth line. Bosco is ranked No. 4 in the country by Maxpreps and has few weaknesses. The Wolves may be hard-pressed to pull out a win in this one, but they are one of the few teams from Arizona that has the weapons to keep it competitive.
Prediction: St. John Bosco 42, Chandler 31
-- Kyle Odegard
No. 5 Westview at Red Mountain
The Mountain Lions came out on top in this matchup last year but haven’t yet shown the same type of offensive firepower following the graduation of quarterback Mason Thorman and wide receivers Drake Pierre and Aeron Carr. Westview (2-0) has played well in its first two contests and is looking for a victory to solidify itself as a top Division I team. Red Mountain (0-2) has faced a tough schedule, and another loss would be a tough blow, especially considering Brophy, Chaparral, Desert Mountain, Desert Ridge and Mountain View are still on the schedule. It’s early, but this a crucial contest for Red Mountain.
Prediction: Westview 20, Red Mountain 17
-- Kyle Odegard
No. 10 Mtn. View at Highland
When these two teams faced off last year, Mountain View (2-0) used some big plays to pull ahead and went on to the 28-14 victory. This game could play out similarly, as both teams return many of their impact players. The Hawks’ defense has been as advertised but the offense has yet to get going. Mountain View is the most explosive team Highland (1-1) has seen up to this point, and it is bound to score some points. This is a crucial game for Highland as it doesn’t want to fall to 1-2. The Toros aren’t firing on all cylinders yet but will be favored to remain undefeated.
Prediction: Mountain View 24, Highland 13
-- Kyle Odegard
No. 3 Centennial (Div. II) at No. 7 Brophy (Div. I)
This is one of the toughest games to call this week. Centennial (1-1) was easily beaten by Chandler in its opener but rebounded nicely last week with a win over Basha. Brophy (1-1) started off strong with a victory over Desert Mountain but lost to Hamilton last week and is only averaging 11 points per contest. The Broncos have a strong defense and a standout quarterback in Brian Woodward, but are not as explosive offensively as in past years. Centennial has star running back Dedrick Young leading the way but the defense is prone to lapses. This one seems like a coin flip.
Prediction: Centennial 20, Brophy 17
-- Kyle Odegard
No. 6 Pinnacle at No. 1 Hamilton
Pinnacle (2-0) appears on its way to being a better team than the past couple season - something it reiterated during the preseason - and here's one game to find out. The Pioneers' Josh Hoekstra is off to another good start this season after his breakout 2012 campaign, and Brian Lewerke can make all the throws, which he has as he acclimates to weekly varsity competition. Whether they can move the ball against Hamilton's defense, which has been as good as advertised most of the first two weeks, is the biggest issue. Pinnacle must be disciplined in its assignments and tackling against Hamilton's running game and the Huskies' big offensive line, but the question remains whether the Pioneers will put up enough points. Pinnacle can play with Hamilton, but winning is another matter.
Prediction: Hamilton 24, Pinnacle 16
Gilbert at No. 7 Campo Verde (Div. II)
Campo Verde has shot out of the gates with a 3-0 record, including an impressive 37-13 win over Thunderbird on Friday. The Coyotes have outscored their opponents 139-19 behind a tough defense and third-year quarterback Luke Pineda. Gilbert has started 0-2, losing a close one to Mesquite and then getting crushed by Desert Ridge. The Tigers badly need to win this game or else the season could begin to unravel. Campo Verde, meanwhile, hopes to keep moving up the Division II rankings with another win.
Prediction: Campo Verde 24, Gilbert 10
-- Kyle Odegard
Westwood at Mesa
The two Mesa schools clash again. Last year's battle went in Mesa's favor, 24-7, but Mesa struggled offensively in a loss against Highland last week, and Westwood is off to a 2-0 start. The Warriors (2-0) have athletes, starting with Dezmond Suing (353 yards rushing, 5 TD) and have gotten good QB play from Kane Tieman so far. Mesa, however, will be the best defense Westwood has seen to date, and the Jackrabbits (1-1) might be limited offensively, but they can run the ball if Turretz Pietz-Noble can return from injury and last week's emergence of Javier Martinez. If it comes down to special teams and the kicking game - which it could in this toss-up of a game - advantage Mesa with Noe Pereles.
Prediction: Mesa 16, Westwood 14
McClintock at No. 9 Tempe
Another rivalry resumes, and with even more mini subplots than just the three miles separating the schools: Tempe QB Emanuel Gant's father, Terrance, is an assistant at McClintock, plenty more kids who know each other, and a 32-27 Tempe win in Week 1 last year. McClintock (2-0) waltzed through Phoenix Carl Hayden and Phoenix Christian, respectively, in the first two weeks, so the Buffaloes are going to be a few notches up the ladder competitively for McClintock. Tempe (2-0) is going to have to keep up with the Chargers' fast-paced offense (snaps every 7-15 seconds is the goal) so the Buffaloes need to stay fresh and get off the field on third downs. Tempe's faced tough tasks already this season in Maricopa from Week 1 and survived, and that experience might be the tipping point. Down to the wire again? No reason to think otherwise.
Prediction: Tempe 27, McClintock 24
No. 1 Show Low (Div. IV) at No. 2 Queen Creek (Div. III)
A perennial Div. IV powerhouse, Show Low continues its tour with top-notch SE Valley schools this week, having lost to Williams Field at home in Week 1. Show Low RB Dallin Crandell is better than his numbers indicate so far with 140 yards and 2 TD (and those aren't exactly sluggish), but Queen Creek's forte is stopping the run, and if Show Low can't throw the ball to move the chains with some consistency, the Bulldogs' defense will take over. Show Low remains a state title contender in Div. IV (and partially why they play games like this) but Queen Creek's running game, defense and depth will eventually wear you out. And don't worry about Joe Germaine stepping down as coach last week, the Bulldogs were already prepared for a possible change.
Prediction: Queen Creek 24, Show Low 14
Corona del Sol at Skyline
Skyline is off to a good start with wins over St. Mary's and Yuma Cibola, but Corona del Sol is better than those two teams. Still, it's been miserable in Corona country, having been dissected by Sierra Vista Buena and Horizon, the Aztecs are more than licking their wounds. Colin Freeland (119 yards, 4 TD) and RJ Rhiner (425 yards passing, 5 TD, 2 INT) have led the offense thus far for the Aztecs, and Tevin Mayfield and Grant Fishburn have been big-play guys at receiver. Mayfield, in particular, will be a big task for Skyline's defense. Logan Ruppert has run well for Skyline (385 yards, 5 TD) as has Gabe Lopez (175 yards, 2 TD) and Cory Anderson had a big night last week for the Coyotes catching the ball. Despite Corona's problems (and there are many) are the Coyotes ready for the next mini-bump in competition? Yes.
Prediction: Skyline 24, Corona del Sol 20