Scottsdale Horizon’s stunning 13-9 victory over No. 3 Tempe Marcos de Niza on Friday left the 5A-II Pima Region wide open — no team has more than one win or one loss in region play with three weeks remaining — and kept alive the possibility, although slim, that all five schools could advance to the postseason.
For that scenario to come to fruition, the biggest key would be for the Huskies (the region’s only sub-.500 team at 2-5) to win out, meaning they would automatically qualify for the playoffs as region champion. After they knocked off the Padres, considered the region favorite coming into the year, that’s not a stretch.
But Horizon, whose five losses have come against 5A-I teams, can’t get complacent.
“I told the kids, this can’t be the best thing we do,” coach Steve Casey said. “We’ve got three tough games left. We can’t rest on what happened.”
Horizon ends the regular season at home against Mesa Skyline (5-2), at Mesa Desert Ridge (4-3) and at home vs. Phoenix Pinnacle (6-1).
3 POINTS TO REMEMBER
Gilbert High moved to 5-3 with its last-second field goal that beat rival Gilbert Mesquite, 15-14, Friday.
Victory No. 301 for coach Jesse Parker, which tied him for second all-time in the state with Tucson Amphitheater’s Vern Friedli, was a rarity. Many familiar with Parker know his general disdain for field goals.
“I can count on one hand, one finger how many games I’ve coached that have been won on a field goal,” Parker said. “Well, I guess there are at least two. We won one game my first year at Texas (High) in Texarkana, Texas, on a field goal. I really can’t remember any others.”
Gilbert has had a penchant for close games this season. Of the Tigers’ eight games, the largest margin of victory in any has been a 14-point loss (14-0) to Tucson Salpointe. Gilbert has wins of eight, nine, seven, nine, and one. Its other losses were by one and seven.
“This is a strange team, but then it’s a strange year,” Parker said. “On paper people probably think we should beat St. Mary’s by a lot. We end up winning in overtime. They think we shouldn’t be in the game with Hamilton and we lose by a touchdown. Strange.”
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Looking to improve a defense which had allowed at least 32 points in three of its previous four games, Desert Ridge scrapped its 4-3 scheme in the days leading up to Friday’s victory over Scottsdale Desert Mountain in favor of a “slant and blitz defense.”
The result — 19 points allowed and three forced turnovers. The latter stat is the more impressive of the two considering the Jaguars had only forced five turnovers in the first six weeks.
“That tells you we’re doing something right,” coach Jeremy Hathcock said.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Mesa Mountain View is winning the turnover battle. That’s something the Toros usually do. But with five turnovers (four fumbles and one interception) in seven games it’s a key to their success. Two of those turnovers were in Week One in a 37-7 rout of Glendale Deer Valley. The Toros’ opponents have 11 turnovers, giving Mountain View a plus-6 turnover ratio.
RESPONDING TO INJURY
The loss of Mesa Red Mountain receiver Aaron Ellsworth indefinitely and likely for an extended period will be tough on the Mountain Lions. Ellsworth had 25 catches for 650 yards and five touchdowns upon his exit in the first half of last week’s 38-14 win over Mesa Westwood. The rest of Red Mountain’s receivers this season have totaled 23 catches for 377 yards and three TDs. Those numbers are spread over 10 receivers.
“We have some kids that can fill in,” Red Mountain coach Jim Jones said. “The thing with Aaron is he’s one of best we’ve ever had and he runs his routes so well. We lose on punt returns, too, not having him.”
SCOTTSDALE QB CLUB
Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep’s Sean Renfree and Horizon’s J.D. Souder have been named the Scottsdale Quarterback Club players of the week. Renfree was 24 of 25 for 347 yards and 4 TDs in a win over Marin (Calif.) Catholic, and Souder had seven tackles and an interception in a 13-9 upset over Tempe Marcos de Niza.
Staff writers Les Willsey and Kyle Odegard contributed to this report.