The final week of the high school football regular season is upon us, with several high-quality contests to keep an eye on in northwest Tucson.
The Canyon del Oro Dorados are seeking to close out a 9-1 regular season in Pinal County, as they play a 5-4 Casa Grande Cougars team on Friday night.
The Catalina Foothills Falcons will look to spring an upset against a 7-2 Sahuaro Cougars team, finishing the season on a high note if they can win against the eastside power.
The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks are hosting longtime power Cienega, with an outside shot at clinching the 5A Southern region title with a win and a Buena loss to Sunnyside.
Mountain View clinched the 5A Sonoran region title last Friday against Desert View and enters Friday’s game against Flowing Wells with a shot at a second-straight unblemished, 5-0 mark in region play.
Pusch Ridge will look to get back to .500 for the year against a 1-8 Catalina Magnet team this week, as they try to keep their slim postseason chances alive.
The Marana Tigers are still seeking their first win of the year, with the Nogales Apaches making the long trek from the border this week.
Here’s how I see the half-dozen programs of northwest Tucson, ahead of the last football Friday of the regular season.
1. Canyon del Oro (8-1)
Last week: Beat Vista Grande, 63-6
This week: At Casa Grande (5-4)
The Dorados are fixing for their best regular season finish since finishing 13-1 in 2010, with a final regular season contest against a Casa Grande team that just got waxed by Sahuaro. The Dorados will get the Cougars’ best shot, as Casa Grande is fighting for its postseason livelihood this week. The Dorados, meanwhile, have a legit shot at being the top-ranked team in the 4A playoffs, with Saguaro and Salpointe Catholic likely heading into the Open Division. Their first task will be to handle their business some 63 miles to the northwest in Casa Grande this week, with everything else being a moot point. Keep an eye on prodigal junior, Stevie Rocker, who is coming off a year-high 133 rushing yards on seven carries in CDO’s 63-6 shellacking of Vista Grande last Friday. The backfield supernova is bound for a breakout performance as he continues his steady recovery from a high ankle sprain, with Friday’s contest against Casa Grande being a likely location for said exploits.
2. Mountain View (5-4)
Last week: Beat Desert View, 21-14
This week: Vs. Flowing Wells (2-7)
The Lions are playing their best football at the right time, winning four-straight contests against regional foes to get themselves above .500 for the first time this season. The team closes out the year at home against a decimated Caballeros team, meaning they’ll likely have little trouble finishing the year 6-4. The Lions currently find themselves ranked 19th in 5A (16th among non-Open Division teams), so they’ll need some razzle-dazzle this week to get a quality seed in next month’s 16-team playoff.
3. Ironwood Ridge (5-4)
Last week: Lost to Buena, 27-0
This week: Vs. Cienega (7-2)
The Nighthawks are trending in the wrong direction down the stretch, falling in Sierra Vista by four scores on Friday night. They still have an outside shot at winning a regional title, however, if they can upset a red-hot Cienega team and get some help from Sunnyside, which plays Buena on Friday night. A key part of the Nighthawks’ upset efforts will center on senior back Brandon Barrios, who has gashed opposing defenses for 1,311 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, with seven 100-yard performances in nine starts. If Barrios can find some open space on Friday, then the Nighthawks have a puncher’s chance against the Bobcats on Friday. Expect a great fight on the gridiron regardless, as the Nighthawks look to ensure another playoff run this fall.
4. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (4-5)
Last week: Lost to Safford, 50-7
This week: Vs. Catalina Magnet (1-8)
The Lions’ already-slim postseason odds took a major blow on Friday night, after falling by 43 points to Safford. Pusch Ridge finds itself ranked 20th in 3A entering a final regular season matchup with a 1-8 Catalina Magnet team, meaning they’ll struggle to gain enough power points in a win to pass the four teams currently ranked 16-19 in the division. Expect junior back Evan Lovett to shine on Friday nonetheless, as the junior has 775 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground for the team this season.
5. Catalina Foothills (3-6)
Last week: Lost to Salpointe Catholic, 49-0
This week: At Sahuaro (7-2)
The Falcons season has taken a bit of a beating in the latter half, with the team losing three of its last four games, with a final contest against a 7-2 Cougars team on Friday night. Darius Kelly’s team is eliminated from postseason contention but can end its season on a high note this week, against a high-flying Sahuaro team. The highlight for Kelly’s team has been the performance of senior Will Parker, who was thrust into the QB role after an injury to the team’s top-two gunslingers. Parker, who started the year as a tight end/linebacker, has thrown for 550 yards with a team-high 317 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns to his name this season.
6. Marana (0-9)
Last week: Lost to Sunnyside, 43-0
This week: vs. Nogales (4-5)
The Tigers’ last shot at victory comes at home on Friday night, when the Apaches come to town to close out the season. Marana has been outscored to the tune of 446-35 in nine games but can end the year on a high note with a win this week. Expect the Tigers to go down swinging, against an Apaches team that’s much improved this year. Marana’s injury-riddled season has forced its youngest members to step up, which will bode well for the team’s future prospects. The current situation is rough but the future is bright for the agrarian high school on the outskirts of town.