Welcome to the penultimate week of the high school football season, with the playoffs looming large in Arizona.
We’ve got a heaping helping of tantalizing contests in this part of the state, with Ironwood Ridge’s trip to Sierra Vista to play a 6-2 Buena team looking mighty scrumptious.
Elsewhere, we’ll see how a surging Mountain View squad looks at home against a 5-3 Desert View team, with the Lions looking for their fourth straight win.
We’ll see whether the Canyon del Oro Dorados can rebound from their first taste of defeat, as they host a winless Vista Grande Spartans team.
The Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions and Catalina Foothills Falcons are looking to avenge double-digit defeats this week, with the former heading to Safford while the latter hosts the Lancers of Salpointe Catholic.
Marana is still in search of its first win of the year, heading to the southside to play a 2-6 Sunnyside team.
It’s a jumbled football landscape, but one that’s starting to take shape in northwest Tucson. Without further ado, here’s how I see the region’s football teams stacking up, from top to bottom:
1. Canyon del Oro (7-1)
Last Week: Lost to Salpointe Catholic, 35-0
This Week: vs. Vista Grande (0-8)
The Dorados got thumped by the Lancers in midtown on Friday night, with future Texas Longhorn Bijan Robinson racing to the end zone four times in a 35-0 win. That said, the Dorados did do a job of flustering the Lancers’ passing game, forcing three interceptions. Dustin Peace’s team should rebound nicely this week, with an 0-8 Spartans squad coming to Oro Valley. Expect the Dorados’ run game to take off in a big way on Friday, as the team looks to return to the win column after their first loss of the year.
2. Ironwood Ridge (5-3)
Last Week: Beat Sunnyside, 36-18
This Week: At Buena (6-2)
The Nighthawks have risen from a 1-3 start to regain their lofty standing in Southern Arizona, thanks to the herculean effort put in by senior back Brandon Barrios. Barrios has compiled video game-like numbers during the team’s run, with 875 rushing yards and 13 scores in games against Desert View, Nogales, Marana and Sunnyside. Expect Barrios to once again gallop freely on Friday, against a Colts defense that’s much improved, but yet to face a talent quite like the backfield bruiser from IRHS. Friday’s game in Cochise County could be the game of the week, with two high-quality teams battling it out for regional supremacy.
3. Mountain View (4-4)
Last Week: Beat Rincon/University, 57-7
This Week: vs. Desert View (5-3)
The Lions, much like IRHS, have sprung to life of-late, winning three consecutive games to get back to .500 for the season. The Lions are hampered by playing in a mediocre region, with the Lions and Desert View Jaguars being the only teams above .500 in region play. That mediocrity could cost the team a spot in the state playoffs, as region champions no longer receive an automatic berth in the dance. The Lions’ will likely have to win in convincing fashion against the Jaguars and Flowing Wells Caballeros in order to ensure an at-large spot in the 5A playoffs. Sadly, the Lions could find themselves on the outside looking in for a second-straight year, despite clinching the 5A Sonoran region in both seasons. That’s a matter for another day, however, as the Lions will have to handle their business against a resurgent Desert View team that’s won its last three games, against Rincon/University, Cholla and Flowing Wells. Expect Johnson’s team to come out hungry, looking to blow their opponents out of the water.
4. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (4-4)
Last Week: Lost to Sabino, 34-21
This Week: At Safford (6-2)
The PRCA Lions got thumped at home by local rivals, Sabino, on Friday night, falling back to .500 for the season. The team’s task gets no easier this week, as they’ll make the 142-mile trek to Safford to face a 6-2 Bulldogs team that’s regained the stature it had a few years ago. The fate of the team’s postseason chances will likely hinge on the performance of junior back Evan Lovett, who’s been phenomenal this year. Expect Lovett and the Lions to come out firing against the Bulldogs on Friday, with a shot at gaining a marquee win in Graham County on Friday night.
5. Catalina Foothills (3-5)
Last Week: Lost to Casa Grande, 38-20
This Week: vs. Salpointe Catholic (7-0)
The Falcons have been decimated by injuries this season, putting a damper on Darius Kelly’s first year leading the charge. They sputtered in Pinal County last Friday, falling to a much-improved Casa Grande squad by three scores, which could end their postseason chances. The Falcons will likely need to spring two monumental upsets in succession, against Salpointe and Sahuaro to have a shot at making the dance. It’s a tall task, but crazier things have happened in high school football. Still, the success the Falcons have achieved with a tight end/linebacker taking snaps at quarterback and a makeshift offensive and defensive line has been impressive. Don’t be surprised if the team springs an upset against either the Lancers or Cougars, throwing the playoff field into disarray.
6. Marana (0-8)
Last Week: Lost to Cienega, 46-0
This Week: At Sunnyside (2-6)
The Tigers have been decimated by injuries, with 20 players missing games to concussions, according to coach Louie Ramirez. Such an odd turn of luck has resulted in a year to forget for the agrarian high school, though Ramirez appears more than likely to right the ship before long. The Tigers’ best shot at getting that first taste of victory is at-hand, playing a 2-6 Sunnyside squad this week. Hopefully Ramirez’s team can do what’s needed to achieve some modicum of success, as it’s been tough to watch the team limp through the season so far.