The changing of the seasons in Southern Arizona, from blistering hot to merely somewhat hot, corresponds with the denouement of the high school football season.
We’ve reached that on-field fever pitch, entering the penultimate week of the high school season, with local teams making that final push towards the 16-team state playoffs.
In Division 5A, both Marana and Ironwood Ridge remain in playoff contention, with the former sporting a 4-4 record, and a 2-1 mark in the Southern region.
The Marana Tigers, meanwhile, are second in the same region thanks to a tiebreaking win over the Nighthawks.
Louie Ramirez’s Tigers sit at 5-3 this season, with a 2-1 mark in the region. They’ll likely need to win their final two games to guarantee a spot in the big dance, with games against Sunnyside and Nogales to close out the regular season.
Clarence ‘Bam’ McRae’s Mountain View squad has made a late comeback, with three-straight wins to sit in a tie with Flowing Wells atop the 5A Sonoran region.
Such a comeback is impressive, considering how the Lions lost each of their first five games by a combined score of 193-63.
The Lions still have an uphill battle to qualify, should they beat Desert View and Flowing Wells to close out the year, as they’d win their region with the victories, but would still have to finish in the top-16 in 5A, because of changes that eliminated the automatic qualification spots for region winners.
The Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions’ playoff chances took a bit of a blow last Friday when they fell on the road to 3A South region leader Sabino, 23-7.
The Lions, who are 4-4 this season, will likely need to earn resounding wins over Safford this Friday, as well as in their finale against Catalina Magnet on Oct. 26 to ensure a spot in the playoffs.
Things are equally murky for Canyon del Oro and Catalina Foothills in 4A, with the Dorados losing back-to-back games, against Sahuaro and Salpointe Catholic, to fall to 5-3 for the year.
The Falcons are in dire straits as well, sitting at 4-4 for the year, with a brutal final stretch against the Lancers and Sahuaro Cougars, who have a combined record of 13-2 this season.
The Dorados’ schedule is much more conducive to success, closing out the year with back-to-back games against Casa Grande schools, starting with this Friday’s matchup with the Vista Grande Spartans, who are 2-6 this season.
The Dorados, who are gunning for their first playoff berth since 2016, close out the year against the Casa Grande Cougars on Oct. 26. The Cougars started hot but have lost back-to-back games against the Lancers and Falcons by a combined sum of 65-35.
This is the time of year where coaches and players keep a watchful eye on the playoff standings, making sure they’re doing enough to keep their teams in contention.
CDO coach Dustin Peace believes the playoff race is well underway for his team, given their recent struggles.
“These weeks are big and we’re going to be playing hard, because each game is a playoff game, honestly,” he said. “If we don’t win these two, we aren’t getting in.”
That sentiment is pretty universal for the six programs that dot the northwestern fringe of Tucson, as no one is guaranteed a spot in the dance without a strong finish.
There’s plenty of football to be played on the well-worn playing surfaces of Southern Arizona, but there has to be a sense of urgency to each snap from here on out.
Each squad controls its own destiny, with scenarios both in support and opposition of each team’s playoff chances.
The best way to solve this postseason puzzle is by taking care of business between the lines on Friday night.
We’ll see who’s ready and who’s ready to go home this week. Get your popcorn ready, it’s going to be a fun ride.