The No. 1 seeds in Divisions I through V endured little trouble navigating the first two rounds of the 2013 playoffs (save D-III Williams Field last week). Two likely remain invincible and three need to play to their capability to stay on track for respective title-game berths. Divisions I through III semifinals are Friday (Nov. 22) and Division IV and V semis are Saturday (Nov. 23).
A quick gaze at the semis in each division:
FRIDAY NOV. 22 (All games at 7 p.m.)
DIVISION I: #4 Desert Ridge vs. #1 Mountain Pointe at McClintock HS – This one comes down to Mountain Pointe's ability to defense Desert Ridge running back Taren Morrison and to a lesser extent Justin Irby. Unless Desert Ridge has been hiding a passing game all season, the Jaguars are Morrison-Irby. Morrison has run wild on virtually every team he's faced. Mountain Pointe, however, isn't like every team Desert Ridge has faced. The Pride runs and throws effectively and play sound defense. Desert Ridge will need to limit Mountain Pointe to the teens or at most 21 points to have a shot. #3 Hamilton vs. #2 Chandler at Highland HS –The seed of doubt is no longer there when it comes to Chandler beating Hamilton. Chandler did so last month in one of the more excitingfinal four minutes a fan could imagine. Hamilton has looked better offensively of late, being able to produce long drives and big plays. Chandler still has the edge offensively, led by quarterback Bryce Perkins.Even with Chandler's high-powered offense, Hamilton limited Chandler to six points for the game's first 44 minutes last time. It's either Hamilton's sixth straight title-game appearance or Chandler's first, come late Friday night.
DIVISION II: #12 Deer Valley vs. #1 Salpointe at Marana HS — There's been an aura of invincibility with Salpointe this season that began in the season opener in Las Vegas. Deer Valley has been a giant killer taking down unbeaten Sunnyslope and last year's D-II runner-up Centennial. Salpointe is too good, confident and too grounded in its task to lose now. The Lancers have all the ingredients — offense, defense, speed and consistency — week-to-week that's scary. Even Deer Valley at its best won't be good enough for the upset. #3 Chaparral vs. #2 Mesquite at Gilbert HS — Chaparral has the edge in intangibles. Winning tradition. Plenty of past state championships. Wins the last two years over Mesquite. Mesquite is the perceived underdog, mainly due to the Firebirds' resume. Chaparral avenged its only loss of the season last week by beating Marcos de Niza. Mesquite will need to resemble the squad that beat Campo Verde for the section title, 30-0, on Nov. 1 to give Chaparral a run — not the Mesquite that beat Campo Verde last week in overtime, 26-20.
DIVISION III: #4 Queen Creek vs. #1 Williams Field at Campo Verde HS — These are the D-III football powers in the East Valley based on their work the last five years or so. They've met three times in their brief history with Queen Creek winning two of three. The last two encounters have been blowouts — last year by Queen Creek on its way to the D-III title and last month by Williams Field. Figure this one like the initial meeting in 2011 (a 22-20 win for Queen Creek). Queen Creek has survived offensively this season with the emergence of junior running back Weston Barlow, who has plugged the gap for injury-plagued Matt Guida. Williams Field looked polished heading to postseason, but a broken collarbone sent veteran quarterback Jeddediah Fagg to the sidelines for the duration in the regular-season finale. Cole Patterson has taken over at QB for Fagg the last two weeks. He hasn't been asked to do much more than give the ball to top back Jacob Anderson. Queen Creek's secondary was burned often by Williams Field's abiility to throw with Fagg at the helm. The meeting a month ago was controlled at the point of attack by WF. If Queen Creek can match WF up front this time, it's a pickem. #3 Desert Edge vs. #2 Saguaro at Arcadia HS — Bring your calculators. This one has 70 points or more being scored unless a wet track manages to gum things up. Even then, who knows. Record-setting receiver Elijah Marks for Desert Edge. Record-setting Luke Rubenzer for Saguaro. Great game to watch. Hope potential weather issues don't impact big plays that are sure to come in bunches.
SATURDAY NOV. 23 (All games at 6 p.m., unless noted)
DIVISION IV: #4 Blue Ridge vs. #1 Show Low at Snowflake HS (1 PM) –With the neutral site in this one in cool country, the predicted inclimate weather could be a factor. That might play more to Blue Ridge, which doesn't rely as much as Show Low does on the passing game. Both teams have formidable rushing attacks. It's a strong rivalry, which adds to the intrigue. #6 River Valley vs. #2 Seton Catholic at North Canyon HS — River Valley took down Snowflake in a surprise last week and the Dust Devils would like nothing better than to dethrone the defending champs and reach their first football title game in the school's 23-year history. River Valley's strength is its physical play, led by running back Brandon Long, who is a few yards short of 2,000 for the season with 28 TDs. Long runs a lot like Winslow's Kelly Wood, who battered Seton for 315 yards on 40 carries last week. Seton's passing game, conversely, will test River Valley's secondary. Seton quarterback Kyle Johnson tossed three TD passes last week, spreading the ball around to several capable receivers. Three different receivers caught scoring passes.
DIVISION V: #4 Round Valley vs. #1 Arizona Lutheran at Paradise Valley HS — Arizona Lutheran gives the opposition plenty to think about with its potent. offense. ALA is quite two-dimensional with running backs Kaleb Buchholz and Jesse Zwick (both 1,000-yard rushers). Tight end-wide out Brady Cook (1,328 yards receiving, 21 TDs and Gabe Galvan 708 yards receiving, 11 TDs) are the main aerial weapons). Quarterback Cameron Haag has thrown for 2,899 yards and 41 TDs. All told ALA has amassed 6,281 yards of offense and averages 50 points a game. Round Valley is married to the ground game, led by Ethan Workman. Ball control is likely its best defense and best chance to upend the top seeded Coyotes. #7 Thatcher vs. #3 Yuma Catholic at Cibola HS — A rematch from early in the season (won by Thatcher, 20-14). Yuma Catholic must control Thatcher quarterback Heath Motes, who is adept at running the mid-line option. Motes rushed for 118 yards in the first meeting, good enough to help secure a victory. Yuma Catholic has several big-play threats led by running backs Carter Rodriguez and Seth McKinney and receivers Donovan Rooks and Matt Pistone. Quarterback Jagan Cleary struggled in the first meeting, completing 14-of-36 passes for 152 yards and was intercepted three times. Yuma Catholic rushed for 205 yards that night led by the versatile Rodriguez.