Here are the top storylines heading into the first round of the playoffs:
Too close to call
While Division I, in particular, features many games that figure to be blowouts, the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups are scintillating across the board. No. 9 Chandler at No. 8 Westview is one of the few Div. I matchups that could be a close one. No. 8 Perry shouldn't have much trouble with No. 9 Lake Havasu in Div. II, but another big 8-vs.-9 tilt in Div. III is the rematch of last year's 4A Division II championship game thriller between No. 8 Williams Field and No. 9 Phoenix Thunderbird. At least there's one matchup of seeds ready to make for a potentially wild night.
Mountain Pointe push
Many of the East Valley powers will have an easy go of it in the first round of the Division I postseason, but not Brophy. The Broncos are undefeated and the No. 2 seed, but get the toughest draw among the top-5 as it plays No. 15 Mountain Pointe. The two teams faced off on Sept. 30 and Brophy won easily, but Mountain Pointe has, by far, the most talent of any double-digit seed. The Pride are only 6-4 on the year, but those losses came to Brophy, Hamilton, Chandler and Desert Vista, teams with a combined record of 36-4. Mountain Pointe has won four in a row as the schedule eased up to end the year. Brophy has a top-tier quarterback in Tyler Bruggman (118-of-195 for 2,027 yards with 33 touchdowns and one interception) and two of the state's best receivers in Frederick Gammage (40 catches for 740 yards, 13 TD) and Devon Allen (28 catches for 628 yards, 12 TD).
Campo Verde and Poston Butte will each play its first varsity playoff games this week. Campo Verde is the No. 16 seed and Poston Butte is No. 15 in Division III, so each will have to play the top two seeds. Campo Verde will travel to Tucson to face off with No. 1 Sabino. Poston Butte will head to Peoria to play against No. 2 Liberty. While both teams are underdogs, Sabino and Liberty have both played a light schedule, and the possibility for an upset is there. Poston Butte, especially, has played competitively against Queen Creek and Williams Field and will present a challenge for Liberty.
After an 8-0 start to the season while being among the smallest Division I schools in the new alignment, the wheels came off the Pioneers' wagon two weeks ago, and stayed off in last week's regular season finale. A meltdown against Desert Mountain in which Pinnacle had a 21-point lead was followed by a shellacking at the hands of Brophy. The competition uptick will be more reminiscent of Brophy's caliber going forward than what Pinnacle saw through most of the regular season, but the Pioneers get a first-round home game against Yuma Cibola first. Hardly a given, a win would be welcome relief from the past two weeks before the really big boys re-appear.
Saints keep marching
A season unlike any other is still alive at Notre Dame, which started the season 2-4, then lost popular coach Scot Bemis while he currently fights lung cancer. The Saints went on a four-game winning streak to sneak into the playoffs as a No. 14 seed, where they travel to Tucson Salpointe. The Saints have a top QB in Jordan Gehrke and a backfield led by Nick Cole (1,321 yars, 10 TDs) that has run rampant on opponents the past month. Salpointe nearly beat Chaparral in late August, but is without leading WR/DB Cameron Denson (957 yards, 15 TDs) after he was ejected from last week's game against Ironwood Ridge, and a couple key components of its defense are out with injuries. Can the Saints pull an upset and keep marching?