There seems to be a clear consensus about the top two football teams in Division I heading into the season.
Hamilton, of course, is the favorite, by virtue of winning last year’s title and returning the state’s top defense.
The easy choice for No. 2 is Mountain Pointe, which beat the Huskies in the regular season, made the title game and has a lot of proven talent returning.
Rivals.com is in the midst of releasing its national top-100 rankings, in which the Pride came in at an impressive No. 19 overall. We expect Hamilton to be ranked in the Top 15, which will be released by the end of the week.
Mountain Pointe can certainly live up to that billing with the talent on the roster, but here’s my issue with the rankings: Desert Ridge is nowhere to be found in the top-100, and I don’t feel like the gulf between those two teams is that wide.
Let’s harken back to the final two rounds of last year’s playoffs to break it down.
Mountain Pointe faced a depleted Brophy team in the semifinals and had its way, rolling to a 30-0 win and into the state championship game. Once there, though, Hamilton flexed its muscle from start to finish in a 31-16 victory, proving without a doubt that it was the state’s best team.
Desert Ridge actually put up a better fight against the Huskies in the semifinals, as the game was tied midway through the third quarter before Hamilton pulled away for a 21-7 win. And here’s the thing: The Jaguars were severely undermanned, as their star quarterback, Tarek Morrison, and star running back, J.J. Husar, were both on the sidelines with torn ACLs.
Desert Ridge’s defense doesn’t get nearly the same publicity as Mountain Pointe’s or Hamilton’s, but it only allowed 165 yards of total offense and two offensive touchdowns in that game against the Huskies.
This year, Morrison is back — although he’s still recovering from the knee injury — as are his twin brother, Taren, and running back Danny Siamau. Defensively, the Jaguars will miss defensive back Anthony Hovorka’s leadership, but return leading tackler Amoni Itaaehau, big hitter Nathaniel Rodriguez and star defensive lineman Vita Taifu.
Just think about it for a second: What if the brackets shook out differently, and Desert Ridge played Brophy in the semifinals, while Mountain Pointe lost to Hamilton on the other side? If Desert Ridge won the battle of survival against the Broncos, the buzz would have been around the Jaguars heading into this season, regardless of the title game result.
As it stands, I tend to agree that Hamilton is the No. 1 team in Division I and Mountain Pointe is No. 2. The Pride has Gatorade Player of the Year Jalen Brown to lead the way, as well as linebacker Wesley Payne, lineman Natrell Curtis, cornerback Dominique Fenstermacher, quarterback Antonio Hinojosa and other standouts. There’s no question the Pride should be very good this year.
However, Desert Ridge could certainly be 2B, and a title game appearance for the Jaguars would not be a shock at all.