Welcome to the ninth week of the high school football season, with the state playoffs looming on the horizon.
We’ve entered the heart of region play, with all six of northwest Tucson’s programs playing familiar foes this Friday.
Leading off this week’s matchups is the duel between undefeated teams, as Canyon del Oro looks for its first win over Salpointe Catholic since 2004.
Pusch Ridge Christian Academy is looking to spring an upset against a 5-2 Sabino squad, with the Lions aiming to extend their current three-game win streak.
Both Mountain View and Catalina Foothills are 3-4 for the year, with each facing a 4-3 team, as the Lions head to play Rincon/University, while the Falcons play Casa Grande.
Ironwood Ridge (4-3) hosts a 2-5 Sunnyside squad on Friday, while Marana looks for its first taste of victory this season, hosting a 5-2 Cienega Bobcats team.
Without further ado, here’s how I see the six programs ranking, from top to bottom, through eight weeks of the regular season:
1. Canyon del Oro (7-0)
Last Week: Beat Sahuaro, 21-7
This Week: At Salpointe Catholic (6-0)
The Dorados face a bona fide juggernaut this week, as they head to midtown to face an undefeated Lancers team that features a future Texas Longhorn (Bijan Robinson) and a future Ohio State Buckeye (Lathan Ransom). The Dorados will, no doubt, be a heavy underdog against the Lancers, but that’s why they play the games. Anything can happen under the bright lights of Friday night and it’ll be fascinating to see how the Dorados fare against one of the best teams in the state.
2. Ironwood Ridge (4-3)
Last Week: Beat Marana, 47-0
This Week: vs. Sunnyside (2-5)
The Nighthawks have surged to life of-late, winning three-straight games, including a 47-point shellacking of Marana last week. The Nighthawks feature one of the best running games in the region, with senior back Brandon Barrios pacing the club, with 979 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Expect James Hardy Jr’s team to pound the Blue Devils on Friday night, improving their record to 5-3 in the process.
3. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (4-3)
Last Week: Beat Sahuarita, 33-14
This Week: vs. Sabino (5-2)
The Lions, like the Nighthawks, have surged to life after a slow start, with junior back Evan Lovett cruising to a year-best 172 rushing yards against Sahuarita last week. Lovett topped his memorable outing off with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, showing his all-around growth as an athlete. The Lions face a red-hot Sabino team this week at home, with first place in the 3A South at stake. Expect a low-scoring defensive battle royale in the shadows of the Catalinas this week, with two surging squads going toe to toe on Friday night.
4. Mountain View (3-4)
Last Week: Beat Empire, 43-0
This Week: At Rincon/University (4-3)
The Lions have rebounded from a slow start by feasting on a series of overmatched region foes, with Empire being their latest victim. The Lions can get to .500 for the year for the first time on Friday night, as they head to Rincon/University to play a resurgent Rangers team. Expect senior running back/linebacker Aaron Logsdon to pace the team’s offense, as the senior has been remarkably consistent on both sides of the ball this year. The Lions should be favored in each of their games going forward, given the defensive mettle and offensive power they’ve shown of-late.
5. Catalina Foothills (3-4)
Last Week: Beat Vista Grande, 61-14
This Week: At Casa Grande (4-3)
The Falcons are another local team that has surged to life of-late, with their 47-point win in Casa Grande against Vista Grande being their latest conquest. Senior linebacker-turned-quarterback Will Parker was remarkable for Darius Kelly’s team against the Spartans, throwing for 235 yards and four touchdowns in the win. The Falcons close out their Casa Grande swing this week, against a 4-3 Casa Grande High School team, before closing out the year against the Lancers and Sahuaro. That’s a brutal final stretch for Kelly and company but is one that will allow them to gain ground in the playoff chase should they pull of an upset or two along the way.
6. Marana Tigers (0-7)
Last Week: Lost to Ironwood Ridge, 47-0
This Week: vs. Cienega (5-2)
The Tigers’ long and trying season took another turn on Friday, as they were boat-raced by IRHS, 47-0 on their home field. The Tigers have yet to win this season and probably will not be expected to do so, against Cienega, Sunnyside and Nogales to close the year. Hopefully Louie Ramirez’s team can find some sort of silver lining from a difficult year, building any sort of momentum going into the 2020 regular season.