The Basha football team is no stranger to early-round playoff upsets — good and bad — under Bernie Busken.
In his first year in 2010, the Bears were the No. 2 seed but lost to Gilbert in the opening round. Last season they were underdogs against Brophy in the quarterfinals and pulled out a 32-29 victory.
As the lower-seeded team heading into its first round matchup with Desert Vista, Basha wouldn’t mind seeing history repeat itself once again, but Busken knows those results won’t have any bearing on this year’s matchup.
“We talked about how good (the win over Brophy) felt, but that’s about it,” he said. “The only thing we bring up is to play with great effort.”
The Bears lost to the Thunder in last year’s semifinals, and Desert Vista went on to win the state championship over Hamilton.
The winner of this game likely meets the Huskies in the quarterfinals next week, so it’s a tough draw. The winner of this game likely meets the Huskies in the quarterfinals next week, so it’s a tough draw. It’s why Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds taped the 16-team playoff bracket to the window of the coaches office, except all other games are coincidentally missing.
“We are going to have to beat all of those guys anyway,” Hinds said. “It is going to be a fun and challenging experience for those guys no matter what, but we have to focus on Basha to start. Otherwise the other games won’t materialize.”
First things first, though. Basha enters at 7-3 and has played well lately. The Bears used a strong fourth quarter to dispatch Perry, went toe-to-toe with Hamilton in a 31-24 loss then blew out Maryvale to end the season.
The team lacks a “signature” win against a Division I opponent this season but hopes this can be the first.
“We haven’t played our best yet, and it doesn’t do us any good to save it,” Busken said. “I’m happy. Our kids are working hard and we’re still getting better.”
Desert Vista dominated on the ground in last year’s matchup, rushing 39 times for 368 yards in the 42-32 win.
With Jarek Hilgers (895 yards rushing, 16 TD) and Kaleb Germinaro (262 receiving yards, 228 rushing, 6 TD) back, that figures to be the game plan once again. The Bears have given up 48 points to Desert Ridge and 41 to Chandler this season, so the Thunder may again put up gaudy numbers.
The Basha offense has shown the ability to move the ball well against anybody. Quarterback Zach Werlinger (162-250, 2,384 yards, 27 TD, 10 INT) and wide receiver Nate Phillips (64 catches, 1,076 yards, 14 TD) lead a potent passing game, while Rajhan Meriwether has 1,084 yards rushing and 10 scores this year.
However, turnovers have been troublesome, and a few of those early could put the Bears in a hole.
If they protect the football, another upset may await.
“I’m hoping we’ll have a good day,” Busken said. “Throwing it to them or dropping the ball on the ground kills a lot of momentum. You’ve got to hope that doesn’t happen.”