Call it an awkward reunion. Here it comes again, the eternal question as to whether teams are at an advantage or disadvantage a second time around this season.
Four East Valley playoff games this week have already been played out during the regular season: No. 9 Desert Mountain at No. 8 Mountain View in Division I, and three more rematches are in Division III: No. 12 Campo Verde at No. 5 Williams Field, No. 9 Saguaro at No. 8 Cactus, and No. 13 Paradise Valley at No. 4 Liberty.
Five matchups are a redux from the 2011 playoffs: No. 11 Basha at No. 6 Desert Vista in Div. I, No. 16 Notre Dame at No. 1 Salpointe Catholic and No. 10 Perry at No. 7 Chaparral in Div. II, plus Saguaro-Cactus (Div. III) and No. 14 Chinle at No. 3 Seton Catholic in Div. IV.
Other matchups are running with fresh faces and new blood (most notably Chandler at Brophy). Is it a good thing this isn’t the second waltz?
Opinions are as jumbled as the playoff seedings. The 2012 regular season re-matches might be more in-play than 2011 playoffs because of all the roster turnover that occurs from year to year.
Mountain View and Desert Mountain might resemble a shells of itself from Week 1 of the season (a 49-28 win for Desert Mountain). The Toros’ turnaround from a 4-6 season in 2011 (the first losing season in school history) but they’ve struggled with a couple key injuries the past couple weeks. Still, neither side said they planned to re-invent themselves for the sake of doing the unexpected.
“We can add a wrinkle or two and they can add a wrinkle or two,” Wolves coach Tony Tabor said. “You have about three days. You’re not signing anyone off the waiver wire. It’s going to be pretty much be the same people, so you know what you’re getting.”
Toros coach Chad DeGrenier noted when he won the 4A Division II state championship at Cactus Shadows in 2006, the Falcons played Higley and Washington both twice. When Williams Field reached the 4A-II title game in 2010, the Black Hawks beat both Arcadia and Notre Dame twice to get there. This time, Williams Field beat Campo Verde earlier this season, 24-14, but it was 10-7 going into the fourth quarter, and both sides feel another close call is coming.
“You spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself and them,” Williams Field coach Steve Campbell said. “We did this last time and they did this, so what are we going to do and what are they going to do? You can’t predict it and you drive yourself crazy trying.”
To that end, Brophy is happy to play a newcomer. The No. 4-seed Broncos are aware they could be playing one of the best double-digit seeds in recent high school football playoff history in No. 13 Chandler, but the unknown (other than Brophy knows how dangerous Chandler’s offense is) works both ways.
“In this case I like playing a team we haven’t,” Brophy coach Scooter Molander said. “I think it’s better to play a team you haven’t seen. If you’ve beaten a team it’s easy to say, ‘We know what they’re going to do and the kids can lose focus.’ It’s easy to get complacent and think you know what they’re about physically or mentally.”
Seemingly everyone brought up the age-old standby about the difficulty in beating a team twice in the same season (Hamilton knows all-too well when it played Desert Vista a second time in 2011), but the same teams also know it’s inevitable to happen for anyone to raise a gold ball on Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s doesn’t matter when you break it down,” DeGrenier said. “It’s all about execution.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.