Campo Verde at Goldwater
A double-whammy hits Campo Verde this year, not only because a brand new group on defense is being put in place, but the Coyotes are moving up to Division II in the process. The good news for Max Ragsdale’s team being the offense has its skill players back in tow, and the talent advantage in this matchup goes to Campo Verde. To the experienced, dual-threat quarterback goes the advantage, and the Coyotes might be rusty in many places (perhaps defensively and the offensive line which is also new), but the night’s result will be good enough.
Prediction: Campo Verde 31, Barry Goldwater 14
Queen Creek at Poston Butte
Two teams in a bit of transition. Queen Creek is the Div. III defending champions, but outside stud running back Matt Guida, it’s nearly an entire lineup of new faces on offense and defense. Poston Butte didn’t fare well in last year’s 36-3 loss to the Bulldogs, but the Broncos are healthier and have two-thirds of their starters back from 2012, plus a couple speedy transfers in Zack Smith and Keyshaun Boyd from Florence. Mike De La Torre’s team was ravaged by injuries, and depth is an issue again this year. But for the moment, at least, the Broncos are pretty healthy. The Bulldogs lost a few key assistant coaches from the past few years in Mark Swartz (stepped down to watch his son play) and Don Kramer (retired), but are still extremely well-coached. The Bulldogs will find a way to squeak this one out — it’s hard to stop Guida — but don’t let last year’s result be an indicator of how this game will unfold.
Prediction: Queen Creek 20, Poston Butte 14
Queen Creek has to replace all but three starters off last year’s Division III championship team, but few expect it to be an issue. The Bulldogs return Tribune Player of the Year Matt Guida (2,829 yards, 31 touchdowns) at running back and have a plethora of talented kids who were either backups on varsity last season or part of the successful JV team. Poston Butte has shown promise in its first few years as a program, and has 14 starters back from last year’s 5-5 team. The Broncos will likely take a step forward this season, but probably not enough to be in the same conversation as teams like Queen Creek, Williams Field, Desert Edge and Saguaro. Poston Butte isn’t expected to win this game, but staying competiive would be a positive sign. It’ll be interesting to see what Guida can do with almost a whole new offensive line in front of him.
Prediction: Queen Creek 31, Poston Butte 14
-- Kyle Odegard
Mountain Pointe at Bishop Gorman
Technically, it’ll be the last game of the night to kick off (7:30 p.m.) but it’s the highlight attraction of the night: Two elite teams (Bishop Gorman has hammered Nevada competition for five years), a Fox Sports 1 TV audience. Mountain Pointe returns a bevy of elite talent from last year’s championship game, but a couple kids were nicked up throughout the summer, namely wide receiver/defensive back Jalen Brown and a couple other starters who were recently involved in a car accident. Brown’s availability (or not) is a big factor here, and Mountain Pointe also knows despite the desire to win and play well against another state’s elite team on TV, there’s no reason to push the envelope. Also worth noting: Bishop Gorman handled a dominant Chaparral team two years ago, and Tony Sanchez’s team hasn’t lost to a Nevada opponent since 2008 (it lost to Hamilton the 2010 Sollenberger Classic and lost to Brophy in 2008). This game will be a good one, there’s too much skill and speed in both teams and very rarely are these one-sided, but it’s hard to go against Bishop Gorman in a close game. Mountain Pointe will be just fine moving forward.
Prediction: Bishop Gorman 24, Mountain Pointe 17
-- Mark Heller
Bishop Gorman is Nevada’s equivalent to Hamilton, so even though the Gaels lose star quarterback Anu Solomon and several other key pieces, there is plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Quarterback Randall Cunningham, Jr. (yes, the son of the former Eagles star) has vast potential and the offensive line is loaded with talent. It’s an inexperienced group, though, so if Mountain Pointe’s defense can come up with some key turnovers, the Pride will have a chance. With quarterback Antonio Hinojosa back for his second season and Jalen Brown and Emmanuel Butler ready to catch his passes, Mountain Pointe’s aerial attack should be improved this year. However, the Bishop Gorman secondary has athletes to match, and its front seven should be capable of stopping the run. It’s tough to see Mountain Pointe scoring a lot in this game, so its defense must keep Cunningham and the Bishop Gorman running game in check. Brown and cornerback Dominique Fenstermacher have dealt with injuries this offseason, and if they’re not 100 percent, it severely dampens the Pride’s chances. Bishop Gorman may start slow because of its inexperience, but I expect the offensive line to assert itself in the second half to help the Gaels pull away for the win.
Prediction: Bishop Gorman 28, Mountain Pointe 14
-- Kyle Odegard