On the surface, it appears that one superstar makes all the difference in Division V.
For those paying attention Friday night, however, Northwest Christian (10-0) proved once again that is much more than Casey Jahn. The state's all-time leading rusher shined, rolling up 176 yards on 26 carries in a 37-0 victory over Tempe Prep (6-4).
But most of those yards came after a first-quarter touchdown pass that loosened up a Knights defense prepared to sell out against the run.
And once the Crusaders took the lead, they relied on airtight defense - which allowed Tempe Prep 197 yards - and stellar special teams, as all nine of the Knights drives started at least 80 yards away from paydirt.
"We knew we were in for a dogfight because they're very good defensively. They run, run, run to the ball. We were excited about the test to get ready for the playoffs," Northwest Christian coach Dave Inness said. "I thought we played a complete game tonight. Offensively we played really well. That's probaly the best defense we've played. Our kicking game was great tonight, too."
No. 1 Northwest Christian earned the top seed for the Division V playoffs. Tempe Prep claimed the No. 9 seed and travels to No. 8 Scottsdale Christian.
The Knights' trademark swarming defense stalled Jahn and forced a three-and-out on Northwest Christian's first possession, but Tempe Prep lost yards on their first drive. That set up the Crusaders at the Tempe Prep 37.
After a 15-yard run by Jahn, the home team dialed up a play-action pass. Senior quarterback Orbi Gonzales lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Dean Shipp on a post pattern.
"When you've got a great running back like Casey, the play-action pass is always going to be there," Gonzales said. "Dean made a good adjustment on his route and it was an easy throw for me. It did help soften up the defense a little bit because they have to respect the pass. They're one of the one of the hardest-hitting teams we've played so far."
Jahn found more room to roam, scoring on 28- and 16-yard runs before halftime.
Tempe Prep had two first-half opportunities to change the nature of the game. Between Jahn's touchdowns, the Knights broke into Crusader territory on a 38-yard strike from junior quarterback Forest Redlin to senior receiver Connor Gourley.
Tempe Prep drove to the 14, but on fourth down, Redlin's heave was caught by senior cornerback Jeff Kortman in the corner of the end zone.
Then, after falling behind 20-0, the Knights converted fourth downs on a fake punt and a 22-yard completion from Redlin to Gourley. Finally, on fourth-and-10 from the Crusaders' 29, the defense forced an incompletion.
Junior Ahmari Underwood led the Knights with 56 yards on 14 carries.