Welcome to the opening week of the high school football postseason, with three northwest Tucson teams qualifying for the dance.
That trio includes Canyon del Oro, who earned the third seed in 4A, as well as Ironwood Ridge and Mountain View, who are the 13th and 16th spot in the 5A bracket, respectively.
The Dorados are the lone local team to have a home game in the opening round, hosting 14th seeded Marcos de Niza.
Both the Nighthawks and Lions will head to the Phoenix area, with the former playing the fourth-seed Casteel in Queen Creek, while the latter plays top-seed Williams Field in Gilbert.
None of the three teams have faced their opponents this season, meaning Friday’s contests will pit unfamiliar foes against each other.
Both the Dorados and Nighthawks enter the postseason on the heels of a loss in their final regular season contests, with CDO losing to Casa Grande, 19-17, while IRHS lost to Cienega, 10-0.
The Lions, meanwhile, enter the 5A playoffs on a five-game winning streak, with their last defeat coming at the hands of the Cienega Bobcats on Sept. 27.
There’s a lot of excellent football to watch this week, but I’ve compiled a list of the games involving local teams below.
Without further ado, here’s how I see the first week of the AIA’s postseason faring come Friday night.
Canyon del Oro (8-2) vs. Marcos de Niza (5-5)
Location: Canyon del Oro High School (25 Calle Concordia)
The Dorados and Padres have only met once this decade, with CDO falling to MDN, 35-8 in 2011. That contest, which occurred in the opening round of the Division II postseason, featured a 75-yard performance by former Stanford Cardinal and current Green Bay Packers linebacker Blake Martinez, who led all Dorados in rushing yards in the contest.
Prediction: The Dorados were knocked back to earth after a stellar 8-1 start to the year last week in Casa Grande. I expect them to respond with gusto come Friday night, especially since they’ll be playing their first home playoff game in 2014, when they beat Verrado in the Division III playoffs. I’m going with CDO to win this one comfortably, with the Dorados beating the Padres, 28-14.
Ironwood Ridge (5-5) at Casteel (7-3)
Location: Casteel High School (24901 S. Power Road, Queen Creek)
Ironwood Ridge and Casteel have never faced each other, as the Colts have only been around since 2015, and in 5A since 2018. They do have one of the state’s most prolific passing games, however, with junior Dane Christensen tossing 21 touchdowns and 2,460 yards, while only committing three interceptions. Senior back Benjamin Blancas is a fantastic threat out of the backfield as well for Casteel, racking up 1,130 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Colts. Casteel also had three receivers finish with more than 500 receiving yards, meaning they’ll pose a definite threat to the Nighthawks’ stout secondary.
Prediction: The Colts were a darkhorse Open Division candidate entering the season but found themselves relegated to the 5A bracket after losses to Centennial, Williams Field and Higley. They’re a solid team, however, and should be able to roll over the Nighthawks come Friday night. I’m going with Casteel to win this one comfortably over a hard-working but undermanned Ironwood Ridge team, 35-10.
Mountain View (6-4) at Williams Field (8-2)
Location: Williams Field High School (2076 S. Higley Road, Gilbert)
The Lions and Black Hawks have never played each other, with Williams Field opening in 2008. WFHS, like Mountain View, started slowly, with losses to Narco of California and Sunrise Mountain to open the year. The Black Hawks responded by winning their next eight games, with all but one coming by double-digits. Williams Field has one of the most balanced offenses in the state, averaging 232.1 rushing and 223.6 passing yards per game this year. They should be the stiffest test of the year for Matt Johnson’s team, which made the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Prediction: There’s a reason that Williams Field is the top-seeded team in the 5A playoffs. The Black Hawks are a phenomenal team on both sides of the ball, with the team’s defense forcing 13 interceptions in 10 games. I expect Williams Field to roll over Mountain View in this one, with the Black Hawks winning the opening round contest, 28-0.