No. 6 Thatcher vs. No. 3 Tempe Prep
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Higley High School (4068 E. Pecos Road, Gilbert)
Records: Thatcher 10-1, Tempe Prep 9-2
Outlook: Since a loss to Scottsdale Christian in late September, Tempe Prep has been on a roll, in particular the past three weeks. Wins against San Tan Foothills, a huge upset over No. 1 Northwest Christian and a shutout of a solid Eagar Round Valley team last week have Tommy Brittain's group giddy. Forest Redlin's play at QB and on defense has been a catalyst, along with Ahmari Underwood and Levi Hartzler, and the defense is creeping closer to its once-dominant self. Unlike the top half of the Div. V bracket, the Knights have a better path to the semifinals and championship game, but Thatcher is coming off an easy win over No. 11 Benson. The Eagles are more of a dual-threat offensively with QB Presley Motes (1,953 passing yards, 22 TD, 6 INT), a 1,000-yard receiver in Jacob Drage and a 1,000-yard rusher in Garet Kartchner. A lone loss in Week 2 to Morenci and wins against Round Valley (the two schools' only common opponent), Benson and Willcox have helped Thatcher competitively through an otherwise easy schedule.
No. 4 Scottsdale Christian vs. No. 3 Yuma Catholic
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams Field High School (2076 S. Higley Road, Gilbert)
Records: Scottsdale Christian 9-1; Yuma Catholic 10-1
Outlook: The seeding is close to accurate in this case, but an easy argument could be made these are two of the three teams in Div. V, basically meeting a round or so too early. Yuma Catholic's road to defending its 2011 state championship will be arduous beginning in these quarterfinals. The Shamrocks only loss of the season came in Week 1 against Phoenix NW Christian in a neutral site matchup in Flagstaff. Wins against Wickenburg, at Buckeye (Div. IV), San Tan Foothills and Willcox have YC every bit a title contender again. Rhett Stalworth is one of the best Div. V coaches in the state and Kody Hazlett is a 2,000-yard rusher with 26 touchdowns. But sophomore Jagan Cleary has shown an ability to throw the ball and that's why SCA defense will be tested in-full. The Eagles have wins against Tempe Prep and Phoenix Christian with its loss being 18-14 to NW Christian. Willie Dudley's program continues its speedy turnaround from last year's 0-3 start to the Dudley era. Luke O'Neill has been SCA's best all-around threat passing and running, while the Eagles will thrown three different runners at you, and Chaz Dudley at receiver. The Eagles have been strong defensively and not committed turnovers (10 total this season). An outcome (one way or another) along the lines of the SCA-NW Christian score seems likely.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.