A neighborhood rivalry which could have been one of the better showcases in Higley-vs.-Williams Field’s brief history might lose some of its luster.
Higley coach Eddy Zubey wasn’t optimistic about starting quarterback Tyler Bloom, who suffered a shoulder injury last week in the Knights’ loss to Saguaro.
Zubey said Bloom could be medically cleared early Friday, but without any practice time and the playoffs beginning next week, Zubey said it’s doubtful he’d let Bloom see the field.
The sophomore-Bloom has thrown for 2,452 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Who fills in if Bloom can't play remains to be seen, and while the Knights would still prefer to throw the ball at times, it could lead (at least for a week) to a return of Higley’s run-heavy offense of the past couple years. The Knights are capable of succeeding that way with Ricky Marshall (1,002 yards, 15 touchdowns).
Higley is No. 9 in the Division III playoff seeding this week.
“Of all teams, against a rival, (trying to secure) a home playoff team…” Zubey said.
The Black Hawks (8-1 overall and No. 2 in Div. III power rankings) are in prime position to earn a top-4 seed in the playoffs and host a pair of playoff games. Their only loss of the season came against Saguaro, and even that featured a massive comeback in the middle stages of the game before the Sabercats took control late to hold on.
Otherwise, Williams Field navigated through a couple key defensive players lost for the season early on, then a couple more to critical components who’ve since come back and shined (WR Cole Forsgren and RB Jacob Anderson).
Already with a three-year starting QB in Jeddediah Fagg, the Black Hawks found depth with kids such as Josh Page on offense, and a defense which has stuffed every opponent other than Saguaro (and even the Sabercats were held in check for the second and third quarters).
Conversely, the Black Hawks average eight yards per carry on the ground and Fagg has 18 touchdowns to only five interceptions through the air.
“This is kind of the mold to come out the gates with,” Black Hawks coach Steve Campbell said. “There’s some benefits to not having Cole the first 4 games in developing other kids which keep us more balanced. Jacob stepped up and knew he was going to play a key role. Josh has been a huge asset because of his diversity at catching and running the ball, and allowed us some more flexibility.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.