Welcome to the fourth week of the high school football season, with the shape of the northwest portion of Tucson’s six programs lining up nicely.
It’s been a rough start to the year for several of the teams in our midst, with CDO remaining the lone team with an unblemished record.
Others, like Ironwood Ridge and Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, find themselves at 1-1 for the year.
Then there’s the rest of the programs, with Mountain View sitting at 0-2, Catalina Foothills at 1-2 and Marana at 0-3.
There’s plenty of action still ahead for each program, but the clock is ticking on each, as the state playoffs loom on the horizon.
Here’s how I see the half-dozen programs of northwest Tucson stacking up against each other, as we near the midway point of the football calendar:
1. Canyon del Oro (3-0)
Last Week: Beat Apache Junction, 35-9
This Week: Vs. PRCA (1-1)
The Dorados took care of business against an overmatched Prospectors team last Friday, improving to 3-0 for the first time since 2010. CDO should get better from here, with quarterbacks Montana Neustadter and Jared Vazquez combining to give the team excellent running and passing capabilities. The X-factor for Dustin Peace’s team is the return of prodigal running back Stevie Rocker from a high ankle sprain. Rocker, who ran for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2018, told me he should be back on the field by the time the Dorados take on Catalina Foothills Oct. 4. The steadfast excellence of senior Gavin Davis, who has led the Dorados on the ground, with 334 yards and five touchdowns, should guide the team forward in the interim.
2. Ironwood Ridge (1-1)
Last Week: Lost to Millennium, 35-20
This Week: Vs. Campo Verde (3-0)
The Nighthawks’ heady win over Mountain View in week one was somewhat overshadowed by a double-digit loss in Goodyear last Friday. The Nighthawks have a brutal non-region schedule this year, with Millennium, Campo Verde and Centennial in succession. All three of those teams should be state title contenders this fall, leaving coach James Hardy and his team to lick their wounds. The Nighthawks have an opportunity to regain their footing later on, in a weaker than average 5A Southern region that features a surprising Nogales squad and a bunch of struggling teams. Expect the Nighthawks to give the Coyotes a run for their money in Oro Valley this Friday, though a win might prove too much of an ask at this stage.
3. Mountain View (0-2)
Last Week: Lost to Higley, 38-13
This Week: Vs. Casteel (2-1)
The Lions have been handed two straight servings of humble pie to start the Matt Johnson era, losing to Ironwood Ridge and Higley by a combined score of 59-20. Johnson’s team needs much better production from their offense, with junior quarterback Hayden Parson completing a mere 42.9 percent of his passes, with three interceptions and no touchdowns in two starts. The teams struggles can’t be pinned on any one player, however, and the Lions need to get back in groove quickly, playing a Casteel team that’s a Darkhorse contender to qualify for the 16-team open division this season. A win on Friday might be a bit too much of an ask for Johnson’s team, but a competitive, well-played outing would be a great step in the right direction.
4. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (1-1)
Last Week: Lost to Walden Grove, 27-0
This Week: At Canyon del Oro (3-0)
The Lions went from the penthouse to the outhouse in two games, smacking down Rio Rico, 42-0 in week one, only to get blanked, 27-0, by Walden Grove. Jerry Harris’ squad has a chance at redemption this week, as they play crossroad rival CDO at their facility on Friday night. The Lions, behind junior back Evan Lovett, will look for their first ever varsity win over the Dorados, after falling 33-7 in last year’s contest. Expect a highly competitive game on Friday evening, with both sides throwing everything they have at each other in a good, old rivalry game.
5. Catalina Foothills (1-2)
Last Week: Beat Marana, 38-0
This Week: vs. Sabino (1-1)
The Falcons earned coach Darius Kelly his first win on Friday night, beating Marana, 38-0, behind three passing touchdowns by senior quarterback Conner Alubowicz. The Falcons will look to continue their good fortunes in a battle of the foothills Friday against Sabino, against a Sabercats squad that lost to Sahuaro, 47-13, Friday evening. It’ll be interesting to see how Kelly’s defense fares in stopping Sabino junior gunslinger AJ Skaggs, who has 276 passing yards and three touchdowns in two starts this season. I expect Friday’s clash to be a defensive bloodbath, with both sides bringing their defensive prowess to the gridiron come Friday night.
6. Marana Tigers (0-3)
Last Week: Lost to Catalina Foothills, 38-0
This Week: Vs. Desert View (1-1)
It’s hard to imagine a tougher start to year two of the Louie Ramirez era at Marana than what the Tigers have faced so far. The Tigers, who went 7-4 in 2018, have lost all three of their games this season, with opponents outscoring the team’s once-high scoring offense to the tune of 151-15 in the process. The Tigers face a gauntlet of a four-week stretch after this week’s contest against the Jaguars, playing Queen Creek power Williams Field on the road Sept. 20, before heading to Sierra Vista to play Buena the following week and returning home against Ironwood Ridge and Cienega the next two contests. The Tigers have taken their fair share of lumps this year and there’s little to suggest that the going will get easier anytime soon. It might be time to start thinking about the 2020 season if you’re a fan of the Tigers, because this season’s heading in the wrong direction quickly.
All games kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13