The first week of the high school football season has come and gone, giving us our first insight into which teams are for real and which are not.
The opening week of the 10-week gauntlet of a season that is high school football saw several dominant team-wide performances, including Canyon del Oro’s stomping of longtime regional rival Flowing Wells, 59-0, despite the Dorados playing without supernova back Stevie Rocker.
We saw the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks knock off their former coach, Matt Johnson, and the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions pounce on an overmatched Rio Rico squad.
On the flip side, week one was a rough opening act for the likes of Marana, which lost to Horizon, 55-3, and Catalina Foothills, which fell to Buena, 35-6.
It’s just one week of a long slog of a season, so each team has more than enough time. That said, the time is fast approaching for each to show their mettle, before the postseason passes them by.
Here’s how I see the region’s six high school football programs stacking up after one week of action:
1. Canyon del Oro (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: Beat Flowing Wells, 59-0
This week: At Prescott High School, 7 p.m., Aug. 30
The Dorados made quick work of the Caballeros in Friday’s opener, a day after their original kickoff time was postponed due to inclement weather. Coach Dustin Peace’s team dominated the Caballeros at home, thanks to a gargantuan effort by senior Gavin Davis, who made a spot-start for Stevie Rocker at running back. The Pusch Ridge transfer finished the opener with a whopping five touchdowns on the ground, to go with a game-high 135 rushing yards, guiding the Dorados to an easy victory. The team’s task gets tougher this week, with a 219-mile road trip to Prescott High School, where they’ll play a Badgers team that lost to Desert Edge, 34-24 in last week’s opener. The Dorados got the better of the Badgers last year, winning 35-23 in Oro Valley. It’ll be interesting to see if Peace and his players can keep their early season success going in the unfriendly confines of northern Arizona.
2. Ironwood Ridge (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: Beat Mountain View, 21-7
This week: Bye week
The Nighthawks got the better of their former coach Friday night, thanks to senior Brandon Barrios’ 135-yard output on the ground. First-year coach James Hardy Jr. and his players have a week off before traveling to Goodyear next Friday to face a Tigers team that went 9-3 in 2018. The Nighthawks fell to the Tigers, 30-27, in Oro Valley a year ago, giving them added reason to come into next week’s contest with a chip on their shoulder. It’ll be interesting to see how quarterback Fabien Figueroa, who excelled in limited passing attempts last week, fares this week, against a Tigers defense that has a top-notch secondary.
3. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: Beat Rio Rico, 42-0
This week: Bye week
The Lions’ season couldn’t have gotten off on a better foot after blanking Rio Rico at home in Oro Valley last Friday. Jerry Harris’ team looks downright scary on offense, with junior back Evan Lovett picking up where he left off a year ago. The junior, who is a sure bet to be a Division I recruit in 2021 if he stays healthy, gashed the Hawks for 128 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Lions, while teammate Gabriel Castro added 52 yards and three rushing touchdowns of his own to give Pusch Ridge a large margin of victory in their season opener. The Lions now have a week off to rest up before hitting the road for the first of two straight road games, against Sahuarita’s rising power, Walden Grove. Their schedule gets more difficult from there, with a crossroad rivalry game against CDO on Sept. 13, followed by another road clash with Snowflake the following week. We’ll have a good idea of the team’s fate by then, as the Lions look to rebound after a 5-6 campaign in 2018. It’s only one week, but Harris’ team looks in fine form to do just that, with Lovett leading the charge.
4. Mountain View Lions (0-1, 0-0)
Last week: Lost to Ironwood Ridge, 21-7
This week: Bye week
Matt Johnson’s first season with the Lions got off to a rough start last Friday, when the Lions lost by 14 points to his former program. The team did find its footing in the game’s fourth quarter, with junior quarterback Hayden Parson scoring a touchdown on the ground in the final stanza. The Lions face a daunting task next week, heading to Gilbert to play a Higley team that went 9-4 a year ago. Johnson has a week off to try and address the issues that arose in their opening contest, though the longtime coach is more than capable of doing just that, given his impressive track record at Ironwood Ridge. Expect the Lions to enter week three rested and ready to take on the world, with the Knights being their first victim.
5. Marana (0-1, 0-0)
Last week: Lost to Horizon, 55-3
This week: At Fairfax, 7 p.m., Aug. 30
The Tigers’ season couldn’t have gotten off to a rougher start, getting crushed by Horizon at home by 52 points. The team will look to lick their wounds and get back on the right track this week, with a road game against Laveen’s Fairfax High School, against a Stampede squad that lost to Notre Dame Prep, 49-6, last week. Expect second-year coach Louie Ramirez to do everything he can to get his team back on-track, with a talented, yet youthful roster that can right their opening week wrongs.
6. Catalina Foothills (0-1, 0-0)
Last week: Lost to Buena, 35-6
This week: At Cactus, 7 p.m., Aug. 30
The Falcons got off to a rough start under first-year coach Darius Kelly on Friday, with Buena taking the team to the woodshed on the Falcons field. Kelly’s defense struggled in all facets of the game in the opener, surrendering 270 passing and 167 rushing yards in a 29-point loss, with senior quarterback Jovoni Borbon finishing the game with 177 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons. What’s concerning for Foothills is their lack of offensive rhythm, with senior quarterback Conner Alubowicz completing 35 percent of his passes (7 of 20) before being pulled for sophomore Connor Smith, who went 0-for-1 in the passing game. The team’s rushing attack didn’t fare much better, with 132 yards on 23 carries. Junior Gavin Sowers finished with the most yards of any Falcon, 55 on 8 carries. The Falcons will need to bring their best effort to the field Friday night, facing off against a Cactus club that went 8-4 in 2018, and that returns leading rusher Anthony Flores and passer Conner Cordts. We’ll see whether Kelly and his staff can get the team back in good position, or whether the Falcons are bound to miss out on the postseason for a second consecutive season.