Two hours will tell the tales: Whose fall shall live another week, and whose shall die; Who shall walk off the field in triumph, and who shall limp away in tears;
Whose sights will turn toward state titles, and whose will only look back and wonder; Seasons will end or begin anew tonight. Here we go ...
CHANDLER VS. HAMILTON
In case both schools, ESPN, media and an anticipated crowd of 12,000 people forget, this is a regular season game.
The winner goes to the playoffs next week as a high seed.
The loser also goes to the playoffs next week as a high seed.
“It’s a game on our schedule,” said Chandler Hamilton A.D. Dick Baniszewski, who’s been a part of ofthyped Ahwatukee Bowls from his days at Phoenix Mountain Pointe. “It’s a great event, and we’re lucky to be there. This game won’t be the end of the world.”
Too late, the hype machine has been in overdrive for a week.
Chandler’s allotment of 1,500 pre-sale tickets for tonight’s game sold out Tuesday. Hamilton’s allotment of 500 tickets sold out in less than 24 hours.
There have been pep rallies, bonfires, national television promos, game sponsorships and longlost alumni and fans coming out of the woodwork to secure tickets.
Both sides have family and friends from 2,000 miles east flying in for the game. A former Chandler cross country coach living in Wisconsin bought Direct TV just to watch on ESPNU.
“People would be jazzed up anyway for this,” Chandler A.D. Dave Shapiro said. “But with ESPN involved it’s wildfire.”
It’s an intra-city clash, No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state, with the winner taking the Fiesta Region.
Can the ballgame justify the buzz?
The last night of the regular season features a truckload of win-andyou’re-in games.
In 5A Division I, the top nine teams currently are a lock for postseason — Chandler, Mesa Mountain View, Hamilton, Chandler Basha, Tucson Salpointe, Phoenix Brophy, Mesa Red Mountain, Phoenix Desert Vista and Tempe Corona del Sol. Nos. 10 through 19, respectively, are battling for the final seven slots. They are the “bubble teams’’ — Mesa Dobson, Yuma Cibola, Mesa, Scottsdale Horizon, Gilbert, Phoenix St. Mary’s, Gilbert Highland, Casa Grande, Mesa Westwood and Phoenix Mountain Pointe.
If the top seven bubble teams win, they are in. The only thing that might change is where they end up.
Dobson’s bubble takes a mighty stab to pop. The Mustangs must lose to Mountain View and have everyone below them in the power rankings win save Casa Grande. Even that might not be enough unless Westwood has a perfect night — it beats Red Mountain and all five of the Warriors non-region opponents win their season finales.
For Mesa, Horizon, Gilbert, St. Mary’s and Highland, winning is paramount. A loss and teams below them that win will pass them. Mesa’s final power-rating — should it fall to Skyline — would be roughly 52.50 or 53.00. The same goes for Horizon, Gilbert, St. Mary’s and Horizon. On paper, all the aforementioned teams are favored.
Mountain Pointe, ranked 21, makes the playoffs only if Gilbert, St. Mary’s, Highland, Casa Grande and Westwood all lose and the Pride defeats Phoenix Alhambra. Mountain Pointe beating Alhambra is more likely than Westwood knocking off Red Mountain. From that standpoint, Mountain Pointe’s chance is better than Westwood’s. Either way, both have a hill to climb.
In 5A-II the bubble teams are Phoenix Shadow Mountain, Phoenix South Mountain, Phoenix North and Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
Desert Mountain is a long shot because it must beat 6-3 St. Mary’s. If the Wolves do, Shadow, North and South must lose to Brophy, Phoenix
Camelback and Phoenix Central, respectively.
In 4A-II Tempe McClintock and Phoenix Pinnacle are among four schools battling for the final two 4A-I berths. McClintock can clinch with an upset of Scottsdale Chaparral. McClintock could also qualify if Pinnacle and Tucson Pueblo lose tonight.
REGION TITLES AT STAKE
The biggest advantage of winning a region title is it earns teams an automatic playoff berth regardless of record. No team in 5A or 4A that is or will be a region champ needs to win the region to qualify.
Here are tonight’s games where a region title is at stake: (we’ve skipped Chandler-Hamilton since you may already know about that game).
Desert Vista at Basha: Desert Vista wins and the Central Region title belongs to the Thunder. Basha wins and it wins the region title in powerpoint terms (although technically it will be a three-way tie between Basha, Corona and Tempe Marcos de Niza). If Basha wins and Corona loses, Basha is the champ.
Casa Grande at No. 11 Cibola: This is for the Gila Valley Region title. The fact that an 11-seed (Cibola) could lose and miss the playoffs shows how weak the schedules of 7-2 Cibola and 7-2 Casa Grande are.
Higley at Queen Creek: There is a three-way tie in the 4A East Sky among Gilbert Higley, Queen Creek and Phoenix Arcadia. If Arcadia beats Coronado and Higley beats Queen Creek, Higley is the champ. If Arcadia wins and Queen Creek wins, Arcadia is the champ. If Queen Creek wins and Arcadia loses, Queen Creek is the champ. All have qualified for the 4A-II playoffs.
Sunnyslope at Cactus Shadows: Cave Creek Cactus Shadows is a heavy favorite, but if Sunnyslope wins it is the Wells Fargo II champ. Both have qualified for the playoffs.
It’s do-or-die time for Arizona’s little guys.
Most first-round matchups in the 2A and 3A state playoffs are a bit tame. It’s the potential second-round matchups that give this year’s brackets some intrigue.
In 3A, the games everybody will be expecting are second-round matchups between the top teams from the South Region and East Region, considered the top two leagues in 3A. On one side of the bracket, undefeated Chandler Seton Catholic, the South champion, should meet Show Low (No. 2 from the East); while Eagar Round Valley (the East champ) will likely meet Coolidge (South No. 2).
“You are going to have to beat three quality teams,” Seton coach Pete Wahlheim said of the road to the title. “I don’t think anybody has an easier route than anybody else.”
East teams have won 19 of the last 21 3A titles, but Coolidge or Seton has been in the last five title games.
The South is trying to unseat the East as the premier football region in 3A and if Seton and Coolidge can pull off second-round wins, it would be hard to argue that the South isn’t king of the 3A mountain.
In 2A, the most anticipated second round pairing will be Phoenix Christian making the trek up the mountains to St. Johns. Two years ago, Phoenix Christian came away with a 29-6 win amid controversy. Allegations of stolen radio signals swirled around the game and both teams will be more than happy to put that game behind them by meeting on the field once again.