Won or done?
It’s rarely so simple as to one game deciding a season, but this week is the final chance for schools to prove themselves worthy of playing onward, or turning in uniforms.
Across most divisions, several East Valley schools are on the proverbial “fence,” either in making the postseason, or securing an important first- (and possibly second-) round home game next weekend.
The difficult part is without intimate knowledge of formulas and mathematical equations which comprise these power rankings, it’s nearly impossible to decipher or determine a team’s future standing from the outside.
That leaves no option but to play the ol’ guessing game, to prognosticate about what will happen Friday night, and, consequently, Saturday morning, when a season’s worth of games are shoveled into a computer which will spit out one final formula and — voila! — playoff brackets.
Remember, though, this is nowhere near exact because every school’s win-loss result affects every other school.
That said, here’s a look at the East Valley’s proverbial “bubble” teams and what they’re facing Friday.
Ranking: No. 8
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 26 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor
Outlook: Pretty good. Horizon is a pretty big favorite in this game, and a Huskies’ win here should cement them as the No. 8 seed and a first-round home game since there’s a 1.3-point differential between them and No. 9 Basha (which plays Gilbert). A loss here and Horizon will tumble, but if Horizon wins and No. 6 Pinnacle loses, then things get real interesting as it relates to Horizon keeping the No. 8 seed because Pinnacle is the highest-ranked team on Horizon’s schedule, and that would cut into the Huskies’ “strength of schedule.”
Ranking: No. 7
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 2 Chandler
Outlook: Though a tall task to be sure, a win here would obviously vault Highland close or into the top 5 (possibly No. 4, which could mean two home playoff games if the Hawks get that far, but that still might be a stretch). A loss here coupled with a Horizon win (.2 points behind Highland), however, makes this another dicey proposition. The best guess here being since Chandler is so high in the rankings, it’s hard to see Highland falling below No. 8 regardless of outcome, and could possibly keep No. 7 (which would be huge because the No. 8 vs. 9 winner in the first round of the playoffs would face No. 1 in the second round, likely Mountain Pointe in this case).
Ranking: No. 9
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 20 Gilbert
Outlook: A 4-5 team with a chance at a first-round home game? Pretty remarkable. It’s what a strong schedule can do for a team, or all the Chandler schools in this case. The problem here is there’s a gap between Basha and No. 8 Horizon, and while Basha is a favorite to beat Gilbert, the Bears won’t get a lot of help from their opponent. It’s possible but unlikely Basha can move up a spot without a combination of a Bears’ win and Horizon loss.
Ranking: No. 10
Week 10 opponent: at No. 13 Skyline
Outlook: Speaking of strong schedules, Red Mountain is pretty much the Mesa version of Basha. But even though the Lions have played much better the past month, it appears as though they’d have to leap Basha and Horizon to get the No. 8 spot. Playing Skyline is going to help the Lions a bit more than Horizon’s and Basha’s respective opponents, but without a lot of help, it’s a longshot to move that far up without playing, say, a top 3-ranked team.
Ranking: No. 13
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 10 Red Mountain
Outlook: The Coyotes’ turnaround is in full swing, and what a great story it’s been under coach Angelo Paffumi the past two years. A moot point now, but if Skyline was able to hold on and beat Desert Mountain two weeks ago, it might have been in the outside mix for a home game. Still, the Coyotes are in good shape playoff-wise even if they lose to Red Mountain, but like most teams near the bottom of the bracket, trying to avoid Mountain Pointe or Chandler in the first round is paramount. That could be a problem if Skyline loses to Red Mountain, because the No. 15 or even 16 spot is a real possibility, especially with Goodyear Millennium (No. 14) having a tough game against Laveen Cesar Chavez and the Brophy-Desert Vista matchup, which brings us to ...
Ranking: No. 15
Week 10 opponent: at No. 17 Desert Vista
Outlook: How’s this for schedule strength: The Broncos are 3-6 and still in the playoff picture. This is the most confusing of possible scenarios, even though it’s clearly a must-win for Desert Vista. The Thunder are coming off a bad loss to Corona del Sol last Thursday, which, along with a loss to Anthem Boulder Creek early in the season, will haunt them if they don’t get in. Because No. 16 Anthem Boulder Creek has to play Pinnacle (a likely loss), the jumbled mess around Nos. 15-16-17 will really unfold if Desert Vista beats Brophy. It’d be foolish to write off Desert Vista in a loss because of what might happen with Millennium and Boulder Creek, and because Highland was out of the playoff picture in 2012, lost to a higher-ranked opponent in Week 10 (Red Mountain), and still got in. But it’s hard to believe that scenario will happen again since D.V. would have only beaten a No. 15-ranked Brophy.
Ranking: No. 7
Week 10 opponent: at No. 3 Mesquite
Outlook: Pretty good as it relates to getting a first-round home playoff game. Even if Campo Verde loses to the Wildcats, the Coyotes shouldn’t fall far from playing a No. 3-ranked school, and there’s a significant gap between No. 8 Tucson Sahuaro and No. 9 Peoria Liberty. Both those schools are favorites to win this week, but they’re facing lower-ranked teams, so it’s conceivable a Campo Verde loss would either keep them at No. 7 or see them fall to No. 8, but still ahead of Liberty. But as with Horizon and Highland vs. Mountain Pointe in Div. I, Campo Verde would love the No. 7 spot to avoid possibly going down to No. 1 Tucson Salpointe Catholic in the quarterfinals.
Marcos de Niza
Ranking: No. 6
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 3 Saguaro (Div. III) (Thursday)
Outlook: For all the trials and tribulation of defensive struggles and QB Josh Eckley’s injured ankle, the Padres again are in excellent shape for hosting a playoff game. Since playing inter-divisional schools has no reward/punishment for playing a school either up or down a division, the Padres will benefit either way from facing No. 3 Saguaro (Div. III), so it’s unlikely they could fall out of the top eight. It’s also unlikely a win would move them to No. 4 (and have two home games) unless Phoenix Sunnyslope and Peoria Centennial both lose.
Ranking: No. 14
Week 10 opponent: at No. 22 Corona del Sol (Div. I)
Outlook: The Saints are obviously in with a win here, but remember Corona is coming off a good win over Desert Vista (despite the miserable season, the Aztecs have played hard, and better under interim coach Tim Kelly). If Notre Dame loses, Tucson Ironwood Ridge (No. 15) beats No. 23 Casa Grande Vista Grande (likely), and No. 16 Betty H. Fairfax beats LaJoya (also likely), then all bets are off. Remember, though, a team in Section IV will get an at-large berth for winning the section which will knock out the No. 16 team, so Notre Dame has to be No. 15 or higher. The best thing going for Notre Dame is a significant gap in “Rating No,”but not having the 16th spot to land on is a big swing in playoff probability if the Saints lose.
Ranking: No. 18
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 28 Arcadia
Outlook: A win is obvious, but the Falcons are also going to need No. 16 Fairfax to lose to La Joya and No. 17 Sierra Vista Buena to lose to Tucson Sunnyside. Basically, Greg Davis’ team needs a lot of help. Oh, that 27-24 loss to Higley and 24-21 loss to Notre Dame. Sigh.
Ranking: No. 9
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 2 Williams Field
Outlook: It’s a home game for Higley if the Knights win this neighborhood rivalry for the first time (0-4 all-time vs. WF). If not, the Knights would need No. 8 Tucson Canyon del Oro to lose to Casa Grande (not likely) and even that doesn’t guarantee the Knights would move up a spot. Since No. 10 Tempe probably beats Phoenix Alhambra, a Higley loss probably keeps the Knights at No. 9 or No. 10.
San Tan Foothills
Ranking: No. 16
Week 10 opponent: vs. No. 30 San Manuel
Outlook: Saving the easiest for last as it relates to Rodger Schenks’ group: Win and the Sabercats are in (going to Yuma Catholic or Arizona Lutheran Academy would not be fun, however). Lose and they’re out.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.