Of all things which can impact a football game's outcome, Mother Nature often isn't on the list in this part of Arizona, but it could be a significant factor this weekend.
With rain (likely significant amounts) in the forecast for football semifinals Friday and Saturday, even the more-talented teams, best-laid plans and high-tech offenses can be washed away.
The hope, of course, is that lightning or other factors don't cause significant delays or worse. Beyond that, extra preparations (or resignations to being at Mother Nature's mercy) are in order, especially if a team likes to throw the ball.
In the case of No. 4 Desert Ridge vs. No. 1 Mountain Pointe in Division I, a sloppy McClintock H.S. field could help Desert Ridge's cause, since the Jaguars are a physical, run-dominant offense. Mountain Pointe has similar traits, but the Pride have a good passing game with Antonio Hinojosa, Jalen Brown and Timmy Hernandez. The Pride are quite balanced, but not used to running on nearly every play.
In the case of No. 3 Hamilton vs. No. 2 Chandler, the Huskies are a run-heavy team whose passing game is effective off bootlegs and play action passing because of that running game. Chandler is a much more passing-oriented team, trying to use to its speed downfield and on the outsides, things a wet, muddy field could neutralize.
Chaparral coach Dave Huffine said they've put in some gameplan contingencies if the weather is woeful, but, similar to Chandler, some of the Chaparral's perceived passing and speed advantages could be partially negated. Its opponent, Mesquite, would have little problem running Paul Perry behind its offensive line 40 times.
In Div. II, Saguaro and Goodyear Desert Edge both rely on speed, a quick passing game and earning chunks of yardage at a time, which means both could be a "fish out of water."
On the other side of the scope, in Div. III, Williams Field and Queen Creek are both reliant on the run these days, so rain may not shape the game into an advantageous role for one team significantly more than the other.
As for Seton Catholic, which plays in the Div. IV semifinals against River Valley on Saturday night, is a pass-heavy team (though not completely reliant on it with RB Antonio Campanella) with QB Kyle Johnson which tries to spread out defenses in space for quick passes to set up vertical plays later.
"You need a contingency plan for something that might happen once every 6 years?" Seton coach Rex Bowser said. "We don’t spend a lot of time on it."
There's a case to be made Firebirds quarterback Chandler Fox is getting the raw end of the deal between him and normal-starting quarterback Sean Paul Brophy.
Not so, apparently.
Named the starter in summer after splitting time last season, Brophy, a junior, started the first five games of the season. He threw for 317 yards and six touchdowns against Red Mountain in the final week of September. Then he injured his back and missed the rest of the regular season.
In stepped in Fox, a QB in the program as a freshman and sophomore before he was moved to wide receiver last year because of a quarterback logjam already in place for 2012 and 2013.
He returned under center, and went 5-0 as the starter in Brophy's absence. Fox completed 64 of 93 passes (68.8 percent) for 869 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions in those five starts.
Brophy returned for the opening-round playoff game against Tolleson.
"Chandler did such a great job, he really did," Huffine said. "It couldn’t have gone better, and all the credit goes to (Chandler). It could have been rocky, but he knew Sean Paul was the starter and going to be the guy. His attitude made things so much easier."
Now that the Sentinels have reached the semifinals for a third consecutive year - a first at the school - the Sentinels will get another dose of a power running team similar to what Winslow brought last week.
It's a moot point since Seton held on for a 27-20 win, but that element didn't go so well for Seton, which got pushed around for 315 yards rushing by Winslow's Kelly Wood.
On Saturday night at Phoenix North Canyon H.S., the Sentinels get another helping of a big offensive line and junior Brandon Long at No. 7 River Valley, which beat a Snowflake team that beat Seton earlier this season to make the semifinals.
Long has rushed for 1,934 yards and 28 touchdowns this season behind a couple of 260-pound lineman. Nobody at Seton is more than 185 pounds.
"Everyone we play is bigger than us, we’ve had that for awhile," Bowser said. "They just keep sending everyone behind that O-line and if you can’t stop it, it’s a long ballgame. We had some things we weren’t doing well (against Winslow) and have to do better, make a couple little tweaks to slow down that power running game. (River Valley) is just going to come at you and try and beat you into submission."
Black Hawks coach Steve Campbell, on whether beating Queen Creek earlier this season (42-17) constitutes an uptick in this budding rivalry:
"If it was Hamilton-Chandler and 17 years (before Chandler beat Hamilton), maybe, but I don’t think so. Is there an ability to be close? It wasn’t like we’ve rolled every single time (24-22 win for Queen Creek in 2011). I don’t think Queen Creek ever said there’s no real competition here because they’d beaten us twice."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.