Division I, II and III football quarterfinals kickoff Friday (Nov. 15). East Valley and southern Arizona schools have a stake in 10 of the 12 contests this weekend. The winners advance to the semifinals on Friday Nov. 22.
Here'a brief look at each matchup by division:
GAMES OF FRIDAY NOV. 15
DIVISION I: #9 Red Mountain (6-5) vs. #1 Mountain Pointe (11-0) — Red Mountain faced a tough schedule that served the Mountain Lions well in making the playoffs (eight playoff teams were on Red Mountain's schedule). Red Mountain was 3-5 in those eight games. Mountain Pointe is the best team it has or will face. #12 Brophy (5-6) at #4 Desert Ridge (10-1) — Like Red Mountain, Brophy has been ultra-challenged by its schedule and benefitted from it. However, these teams met earlier and Desert Ridge pulled away in the second half after a mistake-filled first half. Brophy is healthier with its best quarterback back in action. It won't matter unless the Broncos can take away the big play from Desert Ridge's powerful ground game led by Taren Morrison and Justin Irby. #6 Pinnacle (9-2) at No. 3 Hamilton (9-2) — This is a great rematch from early September. Pinnacle has weapons in quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back Josh Hoekstra, who are capable of big plays, If Hamilton's improved health, particularly on offense, shows itself the Huskies should win comfortably. If not….. #10 Basha (6-5) at #2 Chandler (9-2) — Basha must get after it on defense to win. Be it bend-don't break or forcing turnovers, its best defensive effort is needed to complement the usual prolific game QB Zach Werlinger offers. Don't see this as a rout like the first time, but Chandler has the edge.
DIVISION II: #9 Liberty (8-3) at #1 Salpointe (11-0) — Liberty is averaging 43 points a game, but hasn't faced a defense like Salpointe's. Salpointe has yet to give up more than nine points in a game and has allowed 60 all season. Liberty may be able to crack double digits in this one, but will be hard pressed to stay close to the juggernaut that is Salpointe. The winner of this game faces the #12 Deer Valley (8-3)-#5 Centennial (10-1) winner in the semis. Deer Valley and Centennial met earlier this season with Centennial prevailing, 34-7. #6 Marcos de Niza (7-4) at #3 Chaparral (10-1) — A rematch of a contest that saw 101 points scored back in September, 56 by Marcos de Niza. Expect Chaparral, which is playing its best football at present, to turn things around this time. Marcos de Niza has given up a whopping 398 points, more than twice as many as any of the remaining top five seeds. #7 Campo Verde (9-2) at #2 Mesquite (10-1) — The teams met two weeks ago and Mesquite won handily, 30-0. Campo must give quarterback Luke Pineda more time to throw in this one. Campo has capable receivers and mght be able to control the ball with a short passing game. The Coyotes' ground game is handicapped without injured leading rusher Gabe Ogbonnaya. Ogbonnaya's replacement, Zac Wheeler, tallied more than 100 yards last week in the win over Sahuaro, but was limited to 60 yards the first time vs. Mesquite. Mesquite dominated line play the first time. If that happens again the result won't change. Mesquite likes to pound away on the ground with Paul Perry and have QB Payton Haslam air it out to receivers Juan Giraldo and Nolan Tondreau.
DIVISION III: #8 Canyon del Oro (10-1) at #1 Williams Field (10-1) — Williams Field liked what it saw from backup quarterback Cole Patterson in its playoff-opening win over Agua Fria. Patterson, who will have to pilot the Blackhawks the rest of the way following Jeddediah Fagg's season-ending broken collarbone, was 8-of-12 passing for 189 yards and three TDs. With its passing game still viable, Williams Field is tought to stop. CDO put up nearly 500 yards of offense on Higley last week in its 34-31 win, about the same total Williams Field produced against Higley the week before. CDO is led by a trio of threats — quarterback Jordan Closs-Lopez, running back Max Smith and back/receiver J.J. Metz. Closs-Lopez has thrown for 1,800 yards and 19 TDs, 3 picks and added more than 500 yards rushing. Metz has 952 receiving yards and averages 31 yards per catch. Smith has 872 yards rushing. #5 Peoria (11-0) at #4 Queen Creek (9-2) — Queen Creek's defense set the tone for its attempt at at D-III repeat with a solid win over Cactus. Peoria defeated Cactus earlier this year in a tight game, 28-21. Queen Creek's focus will be on containing Peoria back Akeem Rutledge and dual threat Darius Aguirre. They've combined for 34 of Peoria's 43 touchdowns. Queen Creek's offense has revolved on around the running of Weston Barlow If the Bulldogs defense plays as it did last week, the Bulldogs should be headed to the semis for the third straight year. #7 Sabino (9-2) at #2 Saguaro (10-1) — Saguaro's Luke Rubenzer and Christian Kirk are quite the duo that noone has been able to stop or neutralize. That should continue this week. Rubenzer passed the 4,000-yard mark for offense last week. The record-setting senior QB passed for 256 yards and six TDs and rushed for 151 yards and another score. Kirk rushed for 232 yards and two TDs and caught 7 passes for 68 yards and two more TDs. Sabino's best (only) hope is to win a shootou. The southern AZ Sabercats will try with quarterback Emilio Araiza (32 TDs, 4 picks) and a running game that revolves around Zach Joseph and Alex Turner. The latter pair combined for 321 yards rushing in a first-round win over Tempe. The Sabino-Saguaro winner takes on the winner of #6 Shadow Ridge (9-2)-#3 Desert Ridge (11-0). Shadow Ridge is just cutting its teeth as a playoff team. Desert Edge has a mouth full of choppers (32 sharp ones). Desert Edge won an earlier meeting handily, 63-28.