Welcome to the penultimate week of the high school football regular season, with the state playoffs fast approaching.
Last week’s games were a mixed bag of success for local programs, with Mountain View rolling over Rincon/University and Ironwood Ridge grabbing its fourth-straight win against Sunnyside.
We also saw CDO pick up its first loss of the year, to Salpointe Catholic, while Pusch Ridge fell to Sabino, Catalina Foothills fell to Casa Grande and Marana fell to Cienega.
There were plenty of noteworthy individual performances turned in on Friday night, with several noteworthy outings falling just outside the top-three list you see below.
Without further ado, here’s who stood out the most in a crowded field in week nine of the football season:
3. Evan Lovett (Pusch Ridge Christian Academy junior running back)
Stats: 16 carries, 114 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
Lovett turned in a classic performance, even though the Lions lost to Sabino, 34-21. The junior running back picked up his third 100-yard performance of the year, gashing the Sabercats defense all night long, with his 36-yard touchdown being the highlight of the night for Lovett. Lovett now has 739 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in eight games this year, bringing his two-year total to 1,974 yards on 243 carries with 23 touchdowns on the ground. If he can keep it up, Lovett could go down as the all-time leading rusher in PRCA history, with a real shot at earning a scholarship to play college ball somewhere in a few years.
2. Kollins Opoku-Appoh (Mountain View junior running back/cornerback)
Stats: 3 carries, 64 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown/2 catches, 20 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown/1 interception
Opoku-Appoh turned in an impressive two-way outing in the Lions’ 57-7 shellacking of Rincon/University on Friday, with a rushing and receiving touchdown to go with an interception. The junior now has 250 rushing yards, 117 receiving yards and 5 offensive touchdowns on offense, to go with two interceptions on defense. The 6-foot-1-inch junior can line up wherever you need him, on either side of the ball, with Friday’s conquest serving as the latest example of what Opoku-Appoh is capable of when you get the ball in his hands.
1. Brandon Barrios (Ironwood Ridge senior running back)
Stats: 27 carries, 223 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
Barrios cracked the 1,000-yard plateau for the year in the Nighthawks’ 36-18 victory over Sunnyside, breaking 200 yards in a game for the second time in three weeks. The senior is averaging 150.3 yards per game on the ground this year, with six 100-yard performances in eight starts. Barrios’ task gets much tougher in the Nighthawks final two contests, as they face a 5-3 Buena team in Sierra Vista on Friday, followed by a final week showdown with an excellent, 6-2 Cienega Bobcats team. Barrios and company could be fighting for a 5A Southern region title against the Bobcats, adding more fuel to what should be a fantastic final two weeks for the senior. Barrios has an outside shot at reaching Mitch Fischer’s single-season school record of 2,143 yards, especially if the senior finds some open space against the Colts and Bobcats.