Welcome to the second-to-last week of the high school football regular season, the precipice of the state playoffs.
The Marana Tigers sit at 12th in the latest 5A rankings, while Ironwood Ridge is 18th and Mountain View is 31st overall. In 4A, the Canyon del Oro Dorados are 9th overall, after falling in back-to-back weeks to seventh-ranked Sahuaro and top-seed Salpointe Catholic.
The Catalina Foothills Falcons are 19th overall in 4A, while Pusch Ridge Christian Academy is 12th overall in 3A.
As a reminder, each division has a 16-team playoff, with each region winner earning an automatic bid, with eight at-large berths handed out.
It’s conceivable that a team like Ironwood Ridge could miss the playoffs if they do not beat Buena this week and Cienega next Friday in Vail, as the Bobcats would win the 5A South region, leaving the Nighthawks in search of an at-large spot.
Nothing is guaranteed right now, but each team is on thin ice if they’re going to extend their season past 10 games.
Without further ado, here’s how Tucson Local Media sees the six high school programs in northwest Tucson shaking out this week:
1. Marana (5-3)
Last Week: Lost to Cienega, 44-28
This Week: Vs. Sunnyside, 7 p.m.
The Tigers have been trending in the wrong direction since they started 4-0, losing three of their last four games by double digits. That said, the Tigers still have the strongest playoff resume of any team in the region, with wins over teams like Horizon, Fairfax and Ironwood Ridge, meaning they should be safely in the field if they beat Sunnyside and Nogales to close out the season. A big question mark for Louie Ramirez’s squad is the health of senior quarterback Trenton Bourguet, who has missed some action this year with various injuries. If Bourguet is 100 percent, then the Tigers should roll into the playoffs with a full head of confidence.
2. Ironwood Ridge (4-4)
Last Week: Beat Sunnyside, 29-12
This Week: Vs. Buena, 7 p.m.
The Nighthawks can clinch the 5A South region with wins over Buena this week and Cienega next Friday, guaranteeing them a spot in the playoffs. Matt Johnson’s squad has looked solid of-late, save for their 7-point loss at home to Marana two weeks ago, with senior back Nathan Grijalva and junior quarterback Octavio Audry-Cobos gaining more and more confidence as the season rolls on. The Nighthawks could be a dark horse candidate to make a deep postseason run if they win out, as they have the type of big-play experience, with senior wide out Andrew Cook and the aforementioned duo to wreak havoc for opposing defenses.
3. CDO (5-3)
Last Week: Lost to Salpointe Catholic, 49-6
This Week: At Vista Grande, 7 p.m.
The Dorados need a confidence boost in the worst way possible this week, after back-to-back losses to Sahuaro and Salpointe Catholic. They should get just that against a 2-6 Vista Grande Spartans squad this Friday on the road, setting up a home clash with Casa Grande to likely decide their postseason fate on Oct. 26. A big key for Dustin Peace’s team will be the health of sophomore back Stevie Rocker, who has been hobbled for most of the season with an ankle injury. If Rocker and backup Diego Munguia are at 100 percent, the Dorados will be a tough team to stop going forward. If not, then it might be an uphill battle to finish the year.
4. Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (4-4)
Last Week: Lost to Sabino, 23-7
This Week: Vs. Safford, 7 p.m.
The Lions have been a tough team to predict this season, losing three of their first four games, before blowing out three-straight opponents, only to lose by 16 points on the road against Sabino on Friday. Jerry Harris’ team is thin at skill positions, but has uber-talented sophomore Evan Lovett at its disposal, as well as junior Ryan Garcia. The Lions should have a solid chance of beating the Bulldogs and Catalina Magnet Trojans to finish the season, which will likely propel them to another playoff bid. What happens after that is up in the air, but I’ll bet my money on Harris’ coaching acumen and track record and say the Lions will be a tough out, come postseason play.
5. Catalina Foothills (4-4)
Last Week: Beat Casa Grande, 14-7
This Week: At Salpointe Catholic, 7 p.m.
The Falcons have been a mystery wrapped in an enigma this fall, beating Buena, Pueblo, Vista Grande and Casa Grande, while losing to CDO, Marana, Cactus and Sabino. Jeff Scurran’s squad has a two-headed rushing attack that’s hard to match, with seniors Dominic Bynum and Isaiah Bae torching opposing defenses all year long. The pair have been phenomenal this year, with Bynum accumulating 845 yards and four 100-yard games this season, while Bae has 660 yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns. The Falcons are on the outside looking in right now in the 4A playoff race and will likely need to win one of their last two games against heavyweights Salpointe Catholic and Sahuaro, which is a truly thankless task for anyone this season. Scurran is as talented as any skipper in the state, but even he will have to work overtime to get his team ready for that grueling a home stretch.
6. Mountain View (3-5)
Last Week: Beat Rincon/University, 51-0
This Week: At Desert View, 7 p.m.
The Lions have mounted a second-half turnaround under coach Clarence ‘Bam’ McRae, beating Cholla, Empire and Rincon/University in succession after losing their first five games. The turnaround has given the squad a fighting shot at winning the 5A Sonoran region, with games against Desert View and region leader Flowing Wells remaining. Never rule out a McRae-coached squad when they’re playing well, as he’s one of the best strategic minds around. The Lions are in the driver’s seat in their region, with sophomore quarterback Hayden Parson firing on all cylinders and junior Aaron Logsdon providing a big-play threat out of the backfield for the squad, with 434 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns this season. The Lions have gotten hot at the right time, after lying dormant for much of the regular season. Get your popcorn ready, as the 5A Sonoran region race is going to be one to watch, for sure.