VX Predictions: Football state semifinals - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

VX Predictions: Football state semifinals

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Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 6:23 pm

Hamilton vs. Desert Ridge

There's a growing consensus that Hamilton will roll as usual into the Division I championship game, and while they should be favorites, I'm not buying the Huskies are going to laugh their way into next weekend. Everyone points to the first meeting this season, a 28-6 win by Hamilton, but Desert Ridge is better these days, and another scenario similar to last year's championship game seems more likely a second time around. Hamilton's offensive balance is better than earlier this season, and the Jaguars must throw the ball with some success to have a chance here. Easier said than done against the Huskies, but this won't be some yawner.

Prediction: Hamilton 24, Desert Ridge 20

- Mark Heller

Hamilton vs. Desert Ridge

Hamilton's defense locked up everything Desert Ridge tried in the regular season meeting between the teams. The Huskies are expected to once again force the Jaguars to win this game through the air, which is easier said than done against the state's best secondary. Desert Ridge might be the second best team in Divsion I, but it doesn't match up very well with Hamilton because of defensive tackles Jaxon Hood and Calvin Thomas, who can control the line of scrimmage. Desert Ridge has two options in this one: Keep the ball on the ground, keep the clock moving and hope to pull out a low-scoring, close affair, or try to get some big plays through the air behind the arm of Parker Rasmussen. On the flip side, Hamilton's offense has improved greatly since the beginning of the season. Desert Ridge might hang around, but Hamilton's best players directly coincide with everything Desert Ridge likes to do offensively, and that spells trouble.

Prediction: Hamilton 31, Desert Ridge 14

- Kyle Odegard

Basha vs. Desert Vista

Basha is tough to gauge. The Bears have beaten both Chandler and Brophy this year behind an offense that can be explosive. Kyle Duran (187-319, 2,898 yards, 28 TD, 14 INT) and Nate Phillips (66 rec., 1,195 yards, 6 TD) are an elite combination through the air, and the emergence of sophomore Rahjan Meriwether (47 carries, 367 yards, 4 TD in the playoffs) on the ground has given the team another solid option. However, the Bears have also gotten blown out by Desert Ridge and upset by Perry, as things can go south in a hurry if the passing game isn't clicking. Desert Vista has rolled along all season, with its only loss this season to top-ranked Hamilton. However, the regular season schedule wasn't too tough, and the Thunder have had a cakewalk draw to the semifinals. Even this is an easier game than what was expected after Basha upset Brophy, but Desert Vista will certainly be challenged. Basha's biggest key will be slowing down the Thunder running game, while Desert Vista must do a good job of keeping the Bears' aerial attack in check. These teams seem to have similar talent levels, so it depends who executes the best and makes the fewest amount of mistakes.

Prediction: Basha 38, Desert Vista 34.

- Kyle Odegard

Basha vs. Desert Vista

This might be the game of the night, IF Basha's defense can hold up against Desert Vista's speed on the ground and passing attack in the air. Both teams are big up front and have really good skill position players, but the Thunder have been better defensively than the Bears this season, and that could prove the difference. If Basha can force a few turnovers and run the ball the way it did against Brophy, the Bears can win. Special teams could also be a factor here, as both teams have big-play capability in the return/kicking game. D.V. balance, however, might be a little too good, and outside the turnovers, Basha still allowed 500 yards of offense to Brophy (albeit mostly in the passing game). You wait for Desert Vista to stub its toe as it has in the past, but the Thunder keep looking like a team on a mission after last year's semifinal loss.

Prediction: Desert Vista 27, Basha 24

- Mark Heller

Chaparral vs. Centennial

A possible de facto state championship. Chaparral won two straight 5A Division II state titles and Centennial won three consecutive before that. Either team would be favorites against either Vail Cienega or Tucson Ironwood Ridge. Centennial is healthy again after some midseason injury woes, and Richard Taylor's team has played like it. Jalen Ortiz and Zach Hoffpauir (playing through a foot injury) make the Coyotes go, along with Marcus Farria on defense and QB Justin Sanchez. That core is no strangers to big games either, but Chaparral, too, is healthy. The Firebirds running game flanking Connor Brewer-Davonte Neal in the passing game and its defensive line are playing as well as any point this season. Centennial has loads of talent, and though not the 2010 model, this Chaparral team has a little too much firepower for Centennial to keep track and contain for four quarters.

Prediction: Chaparral 31, Centennial 21

- Mark Heller

Saguaro vs. Sabino

Some think Sabino can give Saguaro its first and only test of the year from a Division III opponent. I'm of the feeling that Sabino is on the same level as teams like Cactus, Thunderbird and Arcadia, which is to say, a rung below Saguaro. D.J. Foster leads an offense that has averaged more than 60 points per game when its starters play, and while Sabino has been stingy on defense, the schedule has been soft. Sabino doesn't have the offensive firepower to run with Saguaro, and the defense hasn't seen a well-oiled machine like Saguaro will bring. The game is in Tucson, so Sabino needs to get ahead early and capitalize on any openings Saguaro gives. If that doesn't happen, this could be another in a long list of Saguaro routs against Division III opponents.

Prediction: Saguaro 49, Sabino 21

- Kyle Odegard

Arcadia vs. Cactus

Cactus is used to being deep in the playoffs, and while this team may not be as talented as some older renditions of the Cobras, it got a nice playoff draw and is the favorite to make the championship game opposite Saguaro. Cactus was defeated soundly by Saguaro in the middle of the year, but has beaten everyone else on a solid schedule, including Peoria, Liberty and Thunderbird. Arcadia had a nice comeback to beat Liberty last week and its best shot at staying alive will be riding workhorse tailback Sosaia Maafu. However, Cactus' defense is tough, and it will be able to key on him because of the Titans' lack of other weapons.

Prediction: Cactus 35, Arcadia 13

- Kyle Odegard

Seton vs. Blue Ridge

It took until the Division IV semifinals, but we'll finally find out just how good Seton Catholic is this season. The Sentinels are 12-0 and have one of the top offenses in the state behind quarterback Ryan Bresnahan (181-of-247, 3,002 yards, 50 TD, 2 INT). The team hasn't been challenged since the fourth week of the year, but will have its hands full against Blue Ridge. The Yellow Jackets are also undefeated on the year and are 3A runners-up from a year ago. Running back/linebacker Chans Cox will be the best player on the field, and he has seen his touches on offense increase in the postseason. There's plenty of unknown surrounding Seton heading into this game, but if it wins against a traditional small-school power, there's no debating the team's worth in Division IV.

Prediction: Blue Ridge 35, Seton Catholic 21

- Kyle Odegard

San Tan Foothills vs. Yuma Catholic

A re-match of the Oct. 28 outing in which Yuma Catholic won 77-50, this one figures to stay a little closer. Yuma Catholic came out gunslinging (something you don't see often in Div. V) and threw the ball all over the yard, and San Tan Foothills couldn't stop the Shamrocks. Trailing by so much early (21-7 and 34-20 by halftime) that STF couldn't get Carlos Melendez and their vaunted ground game into full gear. Mychael Bruce had troubles in the passing game and turnovers. Yet STF still scored 50. The second time around should be a little easier for the Sabercats, but Yuma Catholic has unfinished business after falling in the championship game last year, and STF dream season will still come to a close.

Prediction: Yuma Catholic 41, San Tan Foothills 31.

- Mark Heller


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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]