We’ve reached the final month of the high school football regular season, with the state playoffs bearing down on players and coaches alike.
The heart of region play is upon us, with several games that will test the half-dozen teams that dot the northwest fringe of Tucson.
Perhaps the best game of the week is Friday’s home contest for the undefeated Canyon del Oro Dorados, who play a 6-1 Sahuaro team in Oro Valley.
Pusch Ridge is coming off a 63-point thrashing of Tanque Verde, playing a much-improved Sahuarita Mustangs team in southern Pima County this week.
Without further ado, here’s how I see the six programs of the northwest stacking up, from top to bottom, after seven weeks of football:
1. Canyon del Oro Dorados (6-0)
Last Week: Beat Catalina Foothills, 34-21
This Week: Vs. Sahuaro (6-1)
The Dorados are off to their best start since 2010 and welcome in a Cougars team that’s fresh off a 58-13 shellacking at the hands of Salpointe Catholic. That said, Sahuaro is still one of the best teams in the city, led by senior running back Izaiah Davis, who is averaging 145.3 rushing yards per game this season. Sahuaro has one of the best run games in the city, racking up 284.3 yards per game as a collective in seven contests, while CDO is averaging 253.3 YPG themselves. This should be a doozy of a ballgame, with the Dorados gearing up for next week’s road game with the Lancers in midtown Tucson. If the Dorados beat Sahuaro this week, then there will be two 7-0 teams (in all likelihood) in the 4A Kino region, with the Lancers and Dorados giving 4A a strong shot at having a lot of representation in the state playoffs this season.
2. Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks (3-3)
Last Week: Beat Nogales, 35-9
This Week: At Marana (0-6)
The Nighthawks are rounding into form on both sides of the ball, after a brutal opening half of the season that included three-straight games against Phoenix area powers. The star of the team’s second-half renaissance has been senior back Brandon Barrios, who set a school record with 313 rushing yards in Friday night’s win over Nogales. Expect Barrios and his teammates to have no shortage of opportunities to score this week, as they head to Marana to face an overmatched and winless Tigers team.
3. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions (3-3)
Last Week: Beat Tanque Verde, 63-0
This Week: At Sahuarita (3-3)
Speaking of teams that have found their form of-late, Jerry Harris’ Lions squad has done just that, pounding Tanque Verde a week ago. The Lions are back to .500 for the year, ahead of a clash with region rival, Sahuarita on the road this week. The Mustangs are looking much more formidable under coach Don Watt than they did under previous head man Rodney Day, thanks to the play of seniors Christian Gonzales and Bryce Williams, who have 294 rushing yards apiece this year with nine rushing touchdowns combined. This is the type of Sahuarita team that I used to see when I covered the team between 2014 and 2017, posing a definite risk to Harris’ team. It should be a fun night of ground-and-pound football in the southern end of the county come Friday night.
4. Mountain View Lions (2-4)
Last Week: Beat Cholla, 56-0
This Week: At Empire (1-5)
The Lions pounced on an overmatched Chargers team on the road last week, a week after getting blanked by Cienega. The Lions now turn their attention to a struggling Ravens team that’s coming off a 10-7 loss to Flowing Wells. Matt Johnson’s team should roll this week, as senior running back/linebacker Aaron Logsdon has looked great of-late and the team’s defense has only allowed 39 points in its last four games. The Lions should win out from here, with contests against Rincon/University, Desert View and Flowing Wells remaining. Whether that will be enough to get the team into the 5A playoffs remains to be seen, but it’d allow Johnson to go out on a high note in his first year with the Lions.
5. Catalina Foothills Falcons (2-4)
Last Week: Lost to CDO, 34-21
This Week: At Vista Grande (0-7)
The Falcons looked great at times against the Dorados last week, with tight end-turned-quarterback Will Parker showing a lot of guts in scoring two touchdowns against the Dorados’ ferocious defense. The issue for the Falcons was their defense’s inability to thwart CDO’s rushing attack, with Gavin Davis, Montana Neustadter and Stevie Rocker all running for big gains in Friday’s contest. The Falcons get a break this week, heading to Casa Grande to face a winless Spartans team, before playing closing the year with Casa Grande (4-2), Salpointe (5-0) and Sahuaro (6-1) to close the year.
6. Marana Tigers (0-6)
Last Week: Lost to Buena, 64-6
This Week: Vs. Ironwood Ridge (3-3)
The Tigers’ trying season took another turn for the worse on Friday, getting hammered in Sierra Vista by the Colts. Louie Ramirez’s team is still searching for its first taste of victory this season. With remaining contests against the Nighthawks, Cienega (4-2), Sunnyside (1-5) and Nogales (4-3), it’s no guarantee that they’ll do so. Here’s hoping that Ramirez can turn things around next fall, as it’s been tough to watch the Tigers plummet week-after-week this season.