No. 6 Marcos de Niza at No. 2 Chaparral
No. 6 Marcos de Niza at No. 3 Chaparral (Div. II): In the big surprise of Week 2, Marcos poured it on Chaparral in a 56-45 win over the Firebirds, thanks to a 21-point fourth quarter led by (who else), Josh Eckley: 340 yards passing, 6 TD, 105 yards rushing and another score. The Padres were able to offset a couple turnovers because of their offense and a rotten night passing for Chaparral QB Sean Paul Brophy. Eckley remains the great equalizer, but Chaparral believes it’s now better equipped to deal with the Padres’ all-purpose quarterback. The Firebirds have been unstoppable since, and that’s where this game will be decided. Chaparral’s running game and variety of skill kids out of the backfield and at receiver are going to be tough for Marcos to stop. The Padres overcame a horrible week in seeing their coach be put on administrative leave, then beat recent-nemesis Tucson Ironwood Ridge a few days later. Stopping Chaparral, however, is another matter, even if the Firebirds haven’t played in a close game since the end of September.
Prediction: Chaparral 44, Marcos de Niza 31
No. 7 Campo Verde at No. 2 Mesquite
No. 7 Campo Verde at No. 2 Mesquite (Div. II): The Week 10 battle of Gilbert’s Div. II upstarts was Mesquite’s in a 30-0 landslide. The Wildcats pounded Campo Verde’s defense with 38 runs, and threw it 27 times and amassed 420 yards of total offense. Besides it beign the first game without RB Gabe Ogbonnaya (out for the season with torn ACL), Campo coach Max Ragsdale said this week he counted 26 missed defensive assignements that night. The Coyotes’ defense is/was better than that all season, so a closer return to form is likely. Mesquite put up 42 points against Sierra Vista Buena in the first round last week, but Campo Verde's defense isn’t going to let that happen. The Wildcats are banged up (Nolan Tondreau was injured last week and was a dagger against Campo Verde in the first meeting), but Campo Verde needs a big-play threat running the ball, and hasn’t found one without Ogbonnaya. Mesquite’s defense is still too good for Campo to consistently move the ball, especially in the secondary.
Prediction: Mesquite 24, Campo Verde 13
No. 8 Canyon del Oro at No. 1 Williams Field
No. 8 Canyon del Oro at No. 1 Williams Field (Div. III): Thanks to a 99-yard scoring pass allowed, an offsides call in the final minute which could have given the ball back — and what Higley felt were blown calls between a touchdown and fumble — Tucson Canyon del Oro held on to edge Higley last week, setting up this matchup. It stands to reason, however, that based on recent trends, CDO has little chance against Williams Field, which blew out Higley a couple weeks ago. The Black Hawks passed the first test with ease in life after QB Jeddediah Fagg (broken collarbone) as Cole Patterson had a big night against Avondale Agua Fria (8 of 12 for 189 yards passing and 3 touchdowns). The Black Haws’ running game and defense are too good here, and they’ll march onto the semifinals. Sooner or later, the Black Hawks will get another Queen Creek-Saguaro-Desert Edge matchup and be pushed to their limit, but not yet.
Prediction: Williams Field 41, Canyon del Oro 17
No. 5 Peoria at No. 4 Queen Creek
No. 5 Peoria at No. 4 Queen Creek (Div. III): Quietly, perhaps, Peoria is one of the few undefeated teams left in Arizona (Mountain Pointe, Salpointe Catholic, Desert Edge and Bagdad), so the Panthers’ No. 5 seed comes from having the lowest strength of schedule rating (regular season) in Div. III. The Panthers are extremely young in their starting lineup, but hammered Peoria Bradshaw Mountain, 50-23, last week. This, however, is a bit different. The Panthers haven’t seen a running game or defense on part withe Queen Creek this season. While Matt Guida isn’t seeing the field much on offense because of him hamstring, Weston Barlow (pictured) is back running the ball effectively for the Bulldogs, and Bryce Dobbs was efficient throwing. The trenches is where this game will be won, and where Queen Creek holds the advantage. It’d take a lot of turnovers for Peoria to shut down the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Queen Creek 34, Peoria 20
No. 7 Sabino at No. 2 Saguaro
No. 7 Sabino at No. 2 Saguaro (Div. III): It’s Sabercats vs. Sabercats. In a wild night last week, Tucson Sabino held off a late-charging Tempe team, 56-49 after the Sabercats took a 35-14 lead after one quarter. Sabino ran for 374 yards as a team against Tempe, and (barely) overcame a huge night from Tempe QB Emanuel Gant in that comeback attempt. Aside from the win, none of this bodes well for Sabino against Saguaro, because the closest they’ve seen in terms of athletes was a blowout loss to Goodyear Desert Edge in late September. That 55-21 could be a glimpse of things to come, because Saguaro saw what Tempe did to Sabino in its comeback attempt: spread the field and throw the ball. That’s a pretty good plan when Luke Rubenzer (pictured, left), Christian Kirk (pictured, right) and J.T. Nettleton are on the team. Sabino might hang for awhile because it can score on Saguaro. To Sabino’s credit, they played Salpointe Catholic, Desert Edge and Sahuaro, so they’ve seen elite competition, but Saguaro has too many weapons and can strike too quickly for Sabino to keep up.
Prediction: Saguaro 48, Sabino 24