Welcome to the second half of the high school football season, better known as the first week of region play for most teams in the area.
Last week saw two of the six teams in northwest Tucson earn shutout victories, with Canyon del Oro blanking Amphitheater, 36-0, while Mountain View beat Tucson, 12-0.
The Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions, Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks and Marana Tigers all lost, while Catalina Foothills had a bye week.
Five of the six return to the field this week; Marana enters its lone bye week, while several others need a victory to salvage their seasons.
We’ll break down each team’s prospects in the space below but can say that few northwest programs can rest on their laurels entering the latter half of the year.
Without further ado, here’s how I see the six programs of the northwest shaking out after five weeks of football:
1. Canyon del Oro Dorados (5-0)
Last Week: Beat Amphitheater, 36-0
This Week: Bye Week
The Dorados are flying high entering their lone bye week of the year, having won their first five contests for the first time since 2010. The previous Dorados squad to accomplish such a feat made it to the state title game, falling to Scottsdale’s Saguaro in that contest. It’ll be interesting to see how the Dorados fare once generational running back Stevie Rocker returns from a high ankle sprain that’s kept him out of action this season. Rocker will be back for the team’s next game, against Catalina Foothills on Oct. 4. Keep an eye on how Rocker and senior back Gavin Davis, who has paced the team’s offense with 496 rushing yards and six touchdowns in five starts, split the load against the Falcons. One way or another, the Dorados will get an added boost from having Rocker back, which can only bolster their playoff odds going forward.
2. Ironwood Ridge (1-3)
Last Week: Lost to Centennial, 37-7
This Week: Vs. Desert View (2-2)
The Nighthawks have navigated a brutally tough schedule this season, facing off against Phoenix-area powers Millennium, Campo Verde and Centennial in succession. The result of those contests has not been pretty, with the Nighthawks losing all three to the tune of 100-41. Relief should come in the form of Desert View this Friday. The Jaguars are 2-2 but feature a much less-potent team than any of the three that James Hardy’s team has squared off against so far. Expect the Nighthawks to get back on-track this week, ahead of a brutal road trip to the border to face a resurgent Nogales squad Oct. 11.
3. Mountain View Lions (1-3)
Last Week: Beat Tucson, 12-0
This Week: at Cienega (2-2)
The Lions finally picked up coach Matt Johnson’s first win with the program last Friday when their defense crushed Tucson High with relative ease. The Lions will look to carry that good juju over to this week’s contest, facing off against a Cienega team that’s down from recent years, but is coming off a 63-7 romp over Rincon/University. The key to the Lions’ continued success is whether their passing game, which has gained 119 yards in four games, can get going against the Bobcats. The Lions will probably need to win out to have a shot at clinching a playoff spot, with the AIA ridding the automatic bid for region winners. Expect Johnson’s team to fight like hell against the Bobcats in Vail.
4. Catalina Foothills (1-3)
Last Week: Bye Week
This Week: At Pueblo (4-0)
The Falcons face what may be the surprise of the year in Southern Arizona this week, facing Brandon Sanders’ 4-0 Pueblo team. The Warriors are red-hot thanks to a potent rushing attack that’s averaging 353 yards per game under the former University of Arizona letterman. The Warriors enter Friday’s contest off a 22-21 win over Sunnyside in last week’s contest, while the Falcons were. The Falcons lost a brutal game against regional rival Sabino in their last contest, falling at home, 20-14. It’ll be interesting to see if Darius Kelly’s team can regain its footing against a solid Warriors team, with a playoff berth likely requiring an unblemished record over the team’s final six regular season games.
5. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (1-3)
Last Week: Lost to Snowflake, 27-6
This Week: At Fountain Hills (2-2)
Reality has struck the Lions’ program, which sports a skeleton crew of 28 players, many of whom are undersized underclassmen. Pusch Ridge was run off the gridiron by Snowflake in the White Mountains a week ago, dropping their third-straight contest. Their task this week is almost as daunting, as they’ll head to the East Valley to face a Fountain Hills team that beat Wickenburg by 26 points in its last contest. The Lions need a win this week, with six-consecutive road games to finish the year ahead of them.
6. Marana High School (0-5)
Last Week: Lost to Williams Field, 62-0
This Week: Bye Week
It’s fair to say this is a truly lost season for the Tigers, who have been shellacked by everyone they’ve faced this year. The team has been outscored to the tune of 248-29 in five contests and looks lost in all facets of the game right now. The future might be bright for Louie Ramirez’s program, but the present sure is bleak. The Tigers will be hard-pressed to win a single game this year, with games against Buena, Ironwood Ridge and Cienega in succession.