The most wonderful portion of the high school football schedule is upon us, as postseason dreams lie in the balance every Friday night.
We’ve hit week nine of the high school season, with the playoffs scheduled to start in four weeks, except for the top eight teams in the state, who play in the newfound Open Division on Nov. 15.
Northwest Tucson has one outside contender to make the “Great Eight,” in Canyon del Oro, which is 7-0 after waxing a talented Sahuaro team at home, 21-7, last Friday.
The Dorados face their staunchest test of the year this week when they head to midtown Tucson and face the mighty Salpointe Catholic Lancers, who have outscored their opponents, 364-82 in six blowout victories this year.
Two of the best running backs in the state will be on display in Friday’s clash, as future Texas Longhorn Bijan Robinson toes the line for the Lancers, while three-star recruit Stevie Rocker does the same for the Dorados.
Elsewhere in the region, the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks look to earn their fourth straight victory, against a 2-5 Sunnyside squad.
A spot in the 5A playoffs is well within reach for Ironwood Ridge, with games against Buena and Cienega remaining on the schedule.
The Nighthawks and Bobcats are fighting it out for region supremacy in the 5A South, with each sitting at 2-0 against local foes.
Their season finale, which will take place in Oro Valley, will probably decide who gets to hoist a region crown, with a likely top-eight seed at-stake as well in the state tournament.
Earning such a seed is important for both teams, as it would likely keep them from having to make the long trek to Phoenix for a first-round playoff contest.
The only other local team that’s sitting above .500 for the year is a surging Pusch Ridge Christian Academy team that’s 4-3 for the year after beating Fountain Hills, Tanque Verde and Sahuarita by a combined score of 115-28.
The Lions are in for a fight this Friday night, as they host region power Sabino, who enters their contest with a 5-2 record for the season.
Pusch Ridge has quite the home-field advantage this season, going 3-0 in Oro Valley, while posting a 1-3 mark on the road.
The deciding factor for the Lions this week will be the play of junior running back Evan Lovett, who is one of the best underclassmen in the city.
Lovett is coming off a terrific performance against the Mustangs a week ago, gashing Sahuarita’s defense for 172 rushing yards, while adding a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the team’s 33-14 victory.
Lovett’s performance will likely set the tone for the Lions as they face off against a talent laden Sabercats team this week.
Two other local teams are 3-4 this season, in Catalina Foothills in 4A and Mountain View in 5A, with each needing wins to clinch a playoff spot.
The Falcons won their third game of the year against Vista Grande last Friday by a 61-14 margin, and finishes the year against Casa Grande, Salpointe Catholic and Sahuaro.
The Lions also earned their third win last Friday, blanking Empire, 43-0. Matt Johnson’s team finishes their year with contests against Rincon/University High School on the road, followed by consecutive home games against Desert View and Flowing Wells to close the regular season.
The Marana Tigers are 0-7 for the season, after falling to Ironwood Ridge 47-0 last Friday. The Tigers finish the year with games against Cienega and Nogales at home, with a road clash against Sunnyside tucked between the two.
The final weeks are sure to feature a host of upsets and hard-fought gridiron battles. There’s no rest for the weary, so prepare yourself however you see fit.
Here’s hoping for a memorable final month of the high school calendar, with local teams playing well into the fall in Southern Arizona.