It was a bounce-back week for the 5A Central Region as more than half the region’s teams won Thursday for the first time this season.
The honor roll of winners was Gilbert Highland, Tempe Corona del Sol and Mesa Dobson netting initial and much-needed victories. Chandler Basha now sports the best overall record in the region at 2-1 after blanking Laveen Cesar Chavez.
For the rest of the season going forward, the Central, Fiesta, East Valley and Desert Valley are reduced to battling one another.
It’s the Central where we turn our attention this week. Last year, five of the seven teams in the region (Basha, Corona del Sol, Gilbert, Highland and Mesa Mountain View) qualified for the playoffs. Three (Corona, Mountain View and Highland) reached the quarterfinals with Mountain View going to the semis.
All these teams endured significant losses due to graduation and, as we’re finding out, aren’t as powerful as their 2008 teams.
With each of these teams logging at least three games to date, that’s a good sampling for predicting what may happen the rest of the way. Without further adieu, here’s a stab at a Central Region synopsis from here to the regular-season finales Nov. 6-7:
Basha (2-1) has had trouble scoring points against its best two opponents — Mountain Pointe and Chavez. Its defense has kept it in those games and that serves the Bears well the rest of the way with no offensive juggernauts in the region. Basha opens region play this week with scuffling Gilbert High and then plays its final nonregion game at Yuma Cibola. A 4-1 record would leave Basha in good shape at that point.
Mesquite (2-2) is done with Scottsdale opponents, going 0-2 against Desert Mountain and Chaparral. That’s not bad considering those two are a combined 6-0. Mesquite’s defense is solid, but its one-dimensional offense is the bugaboo. Mesquite has managed to stay reasonably healthy so far. Its first three region games are competitive ones (Corona, Highland and Mountain View).
Mountain View (1-2) lost for the second week in a row, the first time the Toros have suffered back-to-back regular-season losses since 1992. The Toros, with losses to unbeaten Chaparral and unbeaten Tucson Sunnyside, are fortunate they reside in the Central and not the Fiesta.
Highland (1-2) appears to have shown the most improvement from Week 1 (a 56-14 loss to Phoenix Mountain Pointe, a TD loss to 5A-II Avondale Westview and last week’s best showing in beating Desert Ridge). Highland’s three toughest region games may be their first three (Mesquite, Basha, Mountain View).
Corona del Sol (1-2) had some experience back this season, but losing a couple of key offensive linemen and key defensive players to graduation has been tough for the Aztecs to adjust to. Their offensive production is down despite having experience back at quarterback (Chase Cartwright) and running back (Michael Lange). The Aztecs haven’t made substantial strides since their opening night loss to Red Mountain, which is a concern.
Dobson (1-3) has been able to move the ball against every opponent under new coach Alex Jacobson. The defense is still the huge question mark and must tighten up to be a factor. Dobson’s three losses are to Mountain Pointe, Mesa High and Goodyear Millennium — all of whom have very good shots at the postseason. The Mustangs were, however, clearly the inferior team in all three defeats.
As mentioned at the outset, five of these seven schools reached the playoffs last year. I’d venture a guess two are going to qualify this year. Basha and one of Mountain View, Mesquite or Highland. It’s a tight region, but its clearly not as good as it looked when August practices began. The Central Region is not who we thought it was. Not this year anyway.
• Tempe Corona del Sol kept its head above water, eeking out a 21-19 win over Phoenix North Canyon. The Aztecs’ main offensive stalwarts — running back Michael Lange and quarterback Chase Cartwright — combined for the late TD heroics that were the impetus to victory. Lange had a TD reception and TD run.
• Scottsdale Horizon continues to thrive, notching its third win in a row behind a 220-yard passing performance from quarterback Ryan Stanford and his receiving sidekick Nate DeFreitas. Horizon already has two more wins than it did all last season.
• A trio of lengthy winning streaks remained intact as Scottsdale Saguaro ran its winning ways to 35, Scottsdale Notre Dame to 26 and Peoria Centennial to 26. With games against Peoria, Paradise Valley and Phoenix Brophy, respectively, there was a hint of anxiety in the air that those streaks could be halted.
• When the competition is even, turnovers can make a mess of things. Mesa Desert Ridge committed five miscues in its 36-22 loss to Gilbert Highland, a week after a solid, ball-control offense KO’d Corona del Sol. Queen Creek’s bid to derail top-ranked Tucson Canyon Del Oro was sabotaged by six Bulldogs fumbles/interceptions in a 30-7 loss. CDO running back Ka’Deem Carey didn’t help with his 195 yards rushing.
• Phoenix Desert Vista couldn’t hold a 12-0 first-quarter lead or an 18-14 lead at the half in losing for the first time in four years to red-hot Phoenix Mountain Pointe in the annual Ahwatukee Bowl. Desert Vista is the only Fiesta team with a losing mark (1-2).
• Mesa Skyline wasn’t crazy wild about moving from 5A-II back to 5A-I after tasting success and playoffs the last two years at the 5A-II level. The Coyotes have managed back-to-back wins and could be 3-1 to this point instead of 2-2 without a fourth-quarter meltdown at Tucson Ironwood Ridge.
Thursday night’s win over Gilbert High was a great lesson for coach Pete Jonovich’s troops on the pitfalls of turnovers. They didn’t commit a turnover against Gilbert after coughing the ball up five times the week before at Yuma Cibola. Every mistake in Thursday’s win was turned into points by Gilbert and Skyline.
It remains to be seen if Skyline can play smash-mouth football -- as it did vs. Gilbert -- in its region with the likes of Marcos de Niza and Mountain Pointe looming. There is still much work to be done with Phoenix Pinnacle, Mountain Pointe and Desert Ridge serving as the Coyotes’ next three opponents. Skyline’s power-point record is 2-1 since its opening night loss to Chandler High did not count.
• There was likely no happier coach than Mesa Dobson’s Alex Jacobson after the Mustangs put their first win of the year on the board against Yuma Kofa. Any win is critical when your team has been hammered to the tune of 0-3. Jacobson is hoping the confidence boost a win supplies will carry over to the first Central Region game against longtime rival Mesa Mountain View.
“There was a marked change in attitude this past week,” Jacobson said following the 47-17 win over Kofa. “We have to be able to maintain that now.”
This week’s top performances:
Shawn Martin, Coronado, 338 yards, 4 TDs
Terrence Martin, Dobson, 315 yards, 5 TDs
Michael Bailey, Skyline, 171 yards, 2 TDs
Connor Jeffries, Pinnacle, 163 yards, TD
Brett Hundley, Chandler, 156 yards, 2 TDs
Jordan Morgan, Valley Christian, 138 yards, 4 TD;
4-for-5 passing for 67 yards; 9 tackles
Justin Sieczkowski, Seton, 375 yards, 4 TDs
Tom Ross, Williams Field, 222 yards, 4 TDs
Ryan Stanford, Horizon, 220 yards, 2 TDs
Will King, Notre Dame, 215 yards, 2 TDs
Connor Brewer, Chaparral, 198 yards, 2 TDs
Brett Miller, Scottsdale Christian, 193 yards, 1 TD
Nate DeFreitas, Horizon, 134 yards, 2 TDs
Jesse Brantley, Gilbert, 93 yards, 1 TD
Sam Papa, Desert Ridge, 79 yards, 0 TDs
Danny Trittler, Chaparral, 78 yards, 2 TDs
Chris Aguirre, Perry: Game-winning 27-yard field goal
Tommy Murphy, Cactus Shadows: His interception in OT to clinch a win was his fourth in two games