No. 3 Hamilton vs. No. 1 Mountain Pointe (3:30 p.m. Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium): What did we say about never going against Hamilton a second time if it lost the first (frankly, it’s hard to go against the Huskies even if they won the first matchup)? Chandler was warned. Regardless, the Pride’s win over Desert Ridge in the semifinals, in which they shut down the Jaguars’ running game completely, bodes well, because Hamilton wants to do similar things to what Desert Ridge did. Hamilton’s ability to run the ball, not turn the ball over and hold up in special teams are the three biggest caveats to this game, because the Huskies’ defense will fare better than the first meeting (a 37-27 win for Mountain Pointe). Having won this game vs. simply playing this game bodes well for Hamilton, but last year’s loss resonates with Mountain Pointe, a team which believes this is the year of the Pride. Mountain Pointe has played like it all season, and this time they get over the hump. It’s going to be close because Hamilton is too good up front and well-coached, but the Pride’s offensive balance is good, and Mountain Pointe will have a couple key members of the secondary back. It’s nearly impossible to go against Hamilton, but nearly impossible to go against Mountain Pointe given what the Pride have done this season.
Prediction: Mountain Pointe 24, Hamilton 20
No. 4 Queen Creek vs. No. 2 Saguaro (1 p.m. Friday at University of Arizona stadium): What’s changed this around? More for Queen Creek than Saguaro, but both aren’t exactly the same as the early October meeting (a 35-28 victory for Saguaro). On Tuesday, both teams watched film of the first meeting, and both teams said the same thing: They’re much better this time. Queen Creek is healthier for sure, and the Bulldogs are going to try and run the ball straight at Saguaro with Weston Barlow and Matt Guida. Guida’s ability to help be a 1-2 punch with Barlow is key because of his size and speed. Saguaro, however, felt it left a lot of plays on the field that night, and the Sabercats’ offensively have been a wrecking ball through these playoffs, capped by the 77 points scored against an athletic, skilled Goodyear Desert Edge team. Luke Rubenzer has been unstoppable and is setting records, and J.T. Nettleton, Christian Kirk and Brett Adams can beat up on anyone as Saguaro tries to move around Queen Creek and attack the secondary. The Bulldogs’ defense will be the best Saguaro has seen this year, and the Bulldogs’ ability to play “keep-away” with the ball will tell this game’s tale, but “Win it for Tug” is a heavily emotional element here, and Saguaro is going to be hard to contain all day.
Prediction: Saguaro 38, Queen Creek 28
No. 3 Chaparral vs. No. 1 Salpointe Catholic (6 p.m. Friday at University of Arizona stadium): It’s funny sometimes how schedules are scrutinized. Salpointe Catholic hasn’t played nearly as difficult a slate as Chaparral did during the regular season or playoffs, but the Lancers are considered unanimous favorites. There’s good reason. The Lancers have it all: explosive playmakers on offense and defense, led by Cameron Denson, Andrew Cota, and Kaelin Deboskie, and one of the top defenses in the state (regardless of division). Chaparral, however, has all of the same ingredients, and the Firebirds know they’re underdogs which bodes well, if not unusual. The game is basically a home game for Salpointe Catholic, which works in their favor. Similar to Mountain Pointe, this could be Salpointe Catholic’s year, but Chaparral has the defense and offensive balance to make the Lancers sweat. Since nobody has played Salpointe closer than 31 points this season (45-14 win over Peoria Liberty in the quarterfinals), what happens if Chaparral gives them a game? The Firebirds will, and we’ll find out what Salpointe is made of.
Prediction: Salpointe Catholic 34, Chaparral 27