Tempe Marcos de Niza and Tucson Sunnyside were expected to be paired up last year in the 5A Division II state team wrestling finals.
The schools didn’t disappoint, eventually meeting for the title, and the Blue Devils knocked off the Padres for the championship in February.
On Friday night, the battle goes from the mat to the turf of Tucson Flowing Wells High School, site of the teams' 5A semifinal showdown.
This is the first time in 32 years Marcos de Niza has reached a football semifinal. The Padres have done it just twice before — back-to-back under then-coach Ron Cosner in 1973 (11-1) and 1974 (10-1-1). The ’73 squad lost to eventual state runner-up Phoenix Camelback. The ’74 team dropped a decision to Phoenix St. Mary's, also the state runner-up that season.
Not injury free: Chandler High lost reserve running back and kickoff returner Harold Bernard to injury in the Wolves' 35-19 win over Phoenix Brophy last Friday.
Bernard suffered a broken collarbone after a carry early in the fourth quarter. Running backs Steven Jackson, Bryon Warren, Brandon Trowbridge and now Bernard have missed at least a game this season due to injury.
Marked marks: Four school records were either set or tied this season as Desert Vista reached the quarterfinals.
Kicker Jordan Litke set a record for most consecutive extra points (30). Mason Stanley set a single-game record with 11 solo tackles.
Quarterback Mark Lund tied a record with two touchdown passes of 80 or more yards, both going to Allante Battle, who also tied a record.
Sitting out some early games: The top players on two boys basketball teams won't be playing to start the season.
Mesa High forward Demetrius Crowell is hampered by a sore knee and isn’t expected in the lineup until the second week of December. Crowell recently signed a letter of intent to attend Idaho.
Brophy is without senior swingman Justin Johnson, who has been bothered by tendinitis in the preseason. The Broncos don't begin regular season play until next week.
Broncos coach Tony Fuller said Johnson hasn't practiced since the middle of September. He's been getting regular treatment and doing strengthening exercises, but the team doesn't know when they will see their 6-foot-6 senior on the court again.
"Ready or not, here we come," Fuller said. "We have to go with the guys we've got."
Been there, done that: Willie Young has done this before.
Last year, Young took Phoenix South Mountain to the state semifinals in Division 5A-II. Without a senior on the roster, the Jaguars went 23-5.
South Mountain and Young parted ways, and Young was hired at Desert Vista, where he inherits a team with two seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and a freshman on this season's varsity roster. Last year's leading scorer (Alexis Gannis) and leading rebounder (Lauren Andrews) are among those juniors.
Not surprisingly, Young sees some of last year's Jaguars in this year's Thunder.
"They've got the talent and ability to do it," Young said. "It's a matter of how quick we can become a unit because we're very young."