Chandler at Red Mountain: There are two ways to look at Red Mountain’s 17-7 loss to Brophy two weeks ago: The Lions weren’t ready for the uptick in competition they received, and Brophy’s defense/running game gave Red Mountain that dose of reality. Or the Lions dropped a touchdown pass and should have had another score. Whichever way you choose might be your window into what this week holds. Red Mountain has now seen the Fiesta Region competition. Chandler, despite coming off its bye week after the emotional Hamilton game, is as shorthanded as its been in a long, long time. Still, it’s hard to go against Brett Hundley and that offense against a non-Hamilton defense, even though Red Mountain will give the Wolves a game (and then some).
Prediction: Chandler 34, Red Mountain 28
— Mark Heller
Mountain View at Highland: It hasn’t been pretty with these teams most of the season, but, in part, that’s the Central Region style of play. Mountain View had pulled itself together after a miserable start to the season, but a loss to Mesquite last week left them lamenting blown chances on offense. That said, the opportunities should still be present against Highland’s stubborn’s defense. The return of D.J. Geroux last week helps the Toros, as would a running game which was stuffed by the Wildcats. No shootouts here, neither of these schools is equipped to do such things, but Highland has struggled offensively while quarterback Hayden Haviland recovers from a broken hand. Highland remains scrappy and never goes away easily, a credit to Pete Wahlheim and his staff, but the Toros will earn enough offense to get through this grinder.
Prediction: Mountain View 20, Highland 13
— Mark Heller
Tempe Prep at Valley Christian: What to make of the resurgent Knights, who have reeled off three impressive wins over North Pointe, then-No. 1 Scottsdale Christian and Thatcher? Tempe Prep appears to hit the gas as the seasons turns to the final few weeks and have a dangerous offense, led by quarterback Max Wiese and running backs Brandon Milek and Tommy Knebelsberger. Linebacker Rocky Brittain is healthy and playing well again and leading a defense that has allowed more than two touchdowns just once. Since it’s loss to Scottsdale Christian, Valley Christian has finally found its offensive legs, and those belong to Dom Laws, who has scored seven touchdowns in the last two weeks. With Laws coming on strong, that adds another dimension to the Trojans’ offense that relied heavily on running back Tyler Hunt and quarterback Josh Pineda. Tempe Prep may be the hot team in 2A right now, but Valley Christian will slow the Knights’ roll, winning in a tight game that comes down to the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Valley Christian 28, Tempe Prep 16
— Steve Burks
Desert Ridge at Mountain Pointe: The Jaguars must be champing at the bit to wash the bad taste out of their mouths from last year’s game, when they blew a 28-point halftime lead in a 35-34 loss. The Pride doesn’t have the same explosive running game as last season, but has better balance on offense and is very good on defense. Desert Ridge has lost two games by one point this season, so all these last-second losses have to be weighing on their mind. Is it finally time for Desert Ridge to get over the hump and have a close game go its way? It doesn’t look like it. Desert Ridge has several weapons on offense, but the team is still struggling to put it all together. Without much of a running game, the Jaguars will need quarterback Parker Rasmussen to play a very solid game to have a chance. Mountain Pointe’s speedy defense and grind-it-out style will wear down the Jaguars.
Prediction: Mountain Pointe 34, Desert Ridge 21.
— Kyle Odegard
Saguaro at Cactus Shadows: Saguaro took a couple of body blows a few weeks ago by losing consecutive games to Glendale Cactus and Tucson Canyon del Oro, the top-ranked teams in 4A-II and 4A-I. The Sabercats fancy themselves state title contenders, but they’ll need a victory over Cactus Shadows to stay on the short list of teams most likely to knock off Canyon del Oro in the postseason. The Falcons had an impressive victory over Vail Cienega early, but had a perplexing loss to Paradise Valley and then needed to rally against Apache Junction last week. The Falcons are young and inconsistent, but when clicking on all cylinders, they are tough to stop. Saguaro is slowly getting healthier, and if it can win out the rest of the way and get back some key players, a fourth title in five years is still a possibility. This is the first step.
Prediction: Saguaro 42, Cactus Shadows 31
— Kyle Odegard