It's the second full week of prep football and already some marquee games are popping up in the East Valley and southern Arizona. There are others that grab attention for potential and interest in other ways so here's a brief look at those that highlight the Sept.5-6 slate:
SEPT. 5: Thatcher at Yuma Catholic — A rare Thursday night clash in the small school ranks is a good one matching an older 2A power (Thatcher) vs. current D-V (2A) titan (Yuma Catholic). Both teams prevailed by shutout in their openers. Thatcher quarterback Heath Motes ran for three touchdowns and passed for another in 34-0 win over San Manuel. Yuma Catholic topped a better opponent in Tempe Prep, dealing the Knights a 24-0 loss. The same Tempe Prep that eliminated Thatcher from the D-IV playoffs last year. YC quarterback Jagan Cleary passed for 265 yards and two TDs last week. He connected with eight different receivers. YC's defense nabbed four takeaways and stopped Tempe Prep deep in YC territory three times. Highland (0-1) at Mesa High (1-0) — Highland got bit by last year's D-III champ Queen Creek (21-14 loss) while Mesa opened with a shutout (12-0 over Dobson). These are games Highland and Mesa need to win if they entertain playoff hopes at season's end with a handful of underdog roles coming in the second half when section play begins.
SEPT. 6: Brophy at Hamilton — The teams have gone after each other often since the mid-2000's, meeting in two title games (a split). Hamilton has won four of the last five meetings, including all four regular-season battles (2007 through 2010). Hamilton opened with a tidy win over Eastlake (Chula, Vista, Calif), although the Huskies were disenchanted with their second half performance that saw its defense yield 17 points. Still, Hamilton more than doubled Eastlake in total yards and featured a balanced offense. That will be different for Brophy, which was able to corral pass-happy Desert Mountain in its shutout over the Wolves last week. Basha at Centennial — Basha tries to extend Centennial's losing streak to three games dating back to last year's D-II final defeat to Ironwood Ridge. That plus Chandler's thumping of Centennial puts the Coyotes in danger of dropping the first two games of the season for the first time in school history. Basha has the offensive weapons to give Centennial problems as Chandler did. The Bears, however, didn't face an opponent in Week 1 nearly as talented as Centennial. Chaparral at Marcos de Niza — Chaparral certainly has revenge on its mind after falling to Marcos de Niza twice last season, including in the D-II quarter. Marcos gave up 53 points, but won a shootout, 56-53, last week. The Padres defense must be appreciably better this week yielding more than 500 yards of offense. Chaparral had a strong opener against Scottsdale rival Saguaro. Expect a little more defense from Chaparral than Marcos saw in Week 1. Still, Marcos de Niza quarterback Josh Eckley is quite a weapon. He accounted for five TDs (three passing and two rushing) in the opener. Arizona Lutheran at Valley Christian — It doesn't get much tougher for a first-year coach like Jeff Rutledge at Valley Christian. Rutledge took his Trojans up against defending D-V champ Northwest Christian last week and nearly pulled off the upset, losing 19-13 in the final minutes. This week it's Arizona Lutheran, which managed to dent the scoreboard for 81 points last week against another D-V playoff team (albeit a rebuilding one) in Scottsdale Christian. Arizona Lutheran featured a multi-talented backfield last week with three backs rushing for 90 yards or more — Aaron Rosenbaum (111 yards, 2 TDs), Jesse Zwick (100 yards, 3 TDs) and Kalelb Buchholz (90 yards, 1 TD). Quarterback Cameron Haag wasn't too bad throwing, completing 196 yards worth of passes and 2 TDs. Valley Christian played NWC so tough mostly due to its defense and will have to get a similar effort this week. The Trojans scored just once offensively, a lot of that due to NWC's stout defense and had one defensive TD. Valley Christian QB Brandon Haagsman passed for 100 yards and one TD. The Trojans struggled with their running game, something that would be helpful against a high-powered foe that AZL appears to be. Thunderbird at Campo Verde — Campo Verde is in its third varsity football season (the school opened in 2009) and is seeking its first 3-0 start to a campaign. Coach Max Ragsdale's squad has moved up to D-II this year and overpowered two southern Arizona opponents (both in D-III). Thunderbird is also a D-III foe, though no ordinary one. The Chiefs won the 4A-II title (D-III equivalent) in 2010 and have been a solid playoff contender the past three seasons. Campo Verde has won its first two games by a combined tally of 102-6. The Coyotes return a handful of offensive skill players, led by quarterback Luke Pineda, running back Gabe Ogbonnaya and receiver/return specialist Erick Belcher. A retooled defense has fared well thus far, but Thunderbird will be a true, test followed the next two weeks by D-I opponents Gilbert and Highland.