This week’s high school football “epicenter” moves to Ahwatukee for the much-anticipated Hamilton vs. Mountain Pointe tilt — and understandably so — but it’s also shaping up to be a top-notch schedule around the East Valley, and a pivotal one for some undefeated teams to have their mettle tested.
As we approach the midway point of the regular season, it’s also a big week for several of the remaining undefeateds: Mountain View, Campo Verde, Higley, and, in two weeks, Skyline.
Mostly because of scheduling — good or bad — these schools are off to a fast start in the standings, including Desert Ridge (3-1).
But the emptied benches, crazy numbers, half-night Friday nights and good times won’t last.
Desert Ridge’s comeback fell short against a good Serra (Calif.) team on the road in Week 1. Since then, the Jaguars are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 158-6 heading into this week’s matchup against Brophy.
“They’re the best 1-3 team I’ve ever seen,” Jaguars coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “This game will show everyone, and show me what we are and maybe what we can be. We thought we had some tough guys after the Serra game, but this will show it.”
Mountain View was tested by Anthem Boulder Creek in a Week 1 victory and needed a big second-half comeback to beat Highland, but a 162-86 scoring margin appears poised to shrink this week against Pinnacle.
“Pinnacle is very good, and we have to play every minute of four quarters to beat them,” Mountain View coach Chad DeGrenier said. “That’s our test, to play a full game this week. My goal is to improve, and if we continue to do that. Hopefully this gets us moving toward the playoffs in the right direction.”
Campo Verde has cruised to its 4-0 record with a 170-27 scoring margin. The Coyotes lost a key cog in Erick Belcher to a broken collarbone (he’s likely to return in a couple weeks) but have otherwise sailed on smooth waters. That should also change this week again Highland.
“We’ve not been hit in the mouth yet. I don’t know if that’s a credit to the kids or what, but it hasn’t happened yet, and it will,” Campo Verde coach Max Ragsdale said.
Tempe (4-0), Williams Field (4-0) and San Tan Foothills (4-0) also remain among the undefeated ranks. The Buffaloes were pushed to the brink in Week 1 by Maricopa. Williams Field was played close by a good Show Low team and will face a couple juggernauts in Saguaro (Oct. 11) and Queen Creek (Oct. 18).
Higley (4-0) faces a huge test in fellow-undefeated Queen Creek (4-0), but Queen Creek was tested by Poston Butte in Week 1, while the Knights were hounded to the very end by Phoenix Christian two weeks ago, and Cactus Shadows last week.
Skyline (4-0) has gone on a 127-42 scoring streak thus far (including a 24-21 win over Corona del Sol two weeks ago). The Coyotes could continue the thread this week against Phoenix Maryvale, but October will be immensely more difficult for Angelo Paffumi’s upstart team (Mountain View, Desert Mountain, Desert Ridge, Mesa and Red Mountain).
Some were worried about conditioning, as most games haven’t required kids to play more than a half or three quarters. Others were worried about kids’ reactions to being put in adverse or tense situations for the first time.
In this age of unknown power rankings, most are worried about outcomes as October begins and sectional games take over.
“Other than (Belcher’s injury) we haven’t faced trying times,” Ragsdale said. “If we get through these next two weeks, I think we might have something special, but let’s see how this goes first and foremost. These next two games are really going to see where a lot of teams lie.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.