CACTUS (4-0) at QUEEN CREEK (3-1)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 22149 E. Ocotillo Road, Queen Creek.
Cactus can’t relax following its epic 42-41 overtime victory against Scottsdale Saguaro. The Cobras face a potential trap game Friday, wedged in between Saguaro and top Black Canyon Region contender Phoenix Washington.
Queen Creek’s only loss was 24-7 to 4A-I kingpin Tucson Canyon del Oro on Sept. 16. New Bulldogs coach Joe Germaine is making a name for himself beyond his exploits at Ohio State and in the NFL.
Senior quarterback Adam Brzeczek is a veteran starter who presents problems both running and passing. Senior tailback Chim Nga has emerged as the focal point of the offense, gaining 258 yards in last week’s 34-3 victory over Tucson Sahuaro.
Cactus remains on a high following its first win against Saguaro in five attempts. The Cobras fell behind 21-0, but pushed the pace with their spread option offense, exhausting the Sabercats’ two-way players and tying the game at 35 with just under three minutes left.
Cactus senior quarterback Deke Cisco fumbled the ball going across the goal line on fourth down in overtime but junior wide receiver Brandon Mitchell picked it up.
Saguaro responded with a D.J. Foster touchdown run. After a five-yard penalty and a timeout, the Sabercats decided to go for two. But the Cactus defense stopped quarterback Teddy Ruben’s option keeper well short of the goal line.
“Our offense has always had this ability to do this, to come back against any team,” Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier said. “Our tempo became more brisk toward the end of the first half and in the second half. That makes it hard for teams to run with this kind of tempo. It takes a toll on you, for sure.”
PEORIA (2-2) at TEMPE McCLINTOCK (2-2)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 1830 E. Del Rio Drive, Tempe.
It’s a bit early to say a season was saved or lost. But Peoria’s backup quarterback, junior Nick Salute, may have saved the Panthers’ season last week.
He entered the region opener with Peoria trailing little-fancied Copper Canyon 13-0 on the road. Salute connected on seven of eight passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns and the Panthers came back to win 29-19.
Tonight, Peoria takes a break from region play and travels to the East Valley. McClintock is coming off a 59-0 rout of rival Tempe.
Senior tailback Tavon Watson paces the Chargers’ offense with 104 rushing yards per game. The McClintock defense pitched a shutout last week after giving up and average of 23 points per game in the first three weeks.
SUNRISE MOUNTAIN (2-3, 0-1) at AVONDALE AGUA FRIA (0-4)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 530 E. Riley Drive, Avondale.
Sunrise Mountain’s cardiac corps were at it again last week. After spotting Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain a 17-0 first-quarter lead, the Mustangs battled back to tie the game at 24. Bradshaw Mountain scored in the fourth quarter to leave the Valley with a 31-24 win.
As has been the case all season, the Mustangs were not a one man show. Three different players scored the touchdowns and three players had between 50 and 81 yards of offense.
Sunrise Mountain looks to bounce back, as it has from its previous losses, against an Agua Fria team that’s a bit better than its record indicates. The Owls were competitive against solid squads from Goodyear Desert Edge, Apache Junction and Greenway.
Speedy junior backs Leandre Vaughn and Keith Huckaby have rushed for a bit more than 300 yards each in Agua Fria’s mostly ground-bound attack.
LIBERTY (4-0) at PHOENIX THUNDERBIRD (3-1)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 1750 W Thunderbird Road, Phoenix.
Liberty is off its bye week and facing a tricky foe. Thunderbird was one of the Valley’s surprise teams this season until Apollo squashed their early momentum with a 43-0 win.
Still, the Chiefs are much improved this season. Junior tailback Connor Hustead has rushed for seven touchdowns, and junior defensive back Robby Barnes picked off three passes and recovered a fumble in the opening winning streak.
Junior quarterback Andre Gattie is already over the 1,000-yard mark in total offense for the Lions (555 passing, and 463 passing). Senior Austin Hasquet (47 tackles) and junior Ben Kullos (four sacks) spearhead the defense from their linebacker spots.
COPPER CANYON (1-3, 0-1) at DYSART (2-3, 0-1)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 11425 N. Dysart Road, El Mirage.
Both teams look to get over tough starts to region play. Copper Canyon fell victim to Peoria’s comeback, while Dysart was run over by Kellis 50-7.
Copper Canyon junior tailback Michael Grubbs continued his impressive season with 117 yards against Peoria. He’s rushed for 637 yards in four games.
Dysart could not run at all against Kellis, gaining 13 yards on 22 carries. Junior quarterback Benson Grimes was a bright spot, passing for 131 yards and a touchdown.
MOUNTAIN RIDGE (3-1, 1-0) at KINGMAN (2-2, 1-1)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 4182 N. Bank St., Kingman
Mountain Ridge has made a statement in the last two weeks. The Mountain Lions hung with nationally-ranked Chandler Hamilton before falling 45-28 on Sept. 16.
Then, in its Northwest Region opener against fellow contender Anthem Boulder Creek, Mountain Ridge looked dominant. Senior tailback P.J. Sparks rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a 98-yard kickoff return in the 44-17 victory.
“The offensive line did a great job, and they were able to give a lot of opportunities to P.J. (Sparks)” Mountain Ridge coach Bobby Green said. “The team did a great job of going through the roller coaster of the game. We responded when we needed to.”
The Mountain Lions are on their longest trip of the season. At the end of it, they’ll face a Kingman team that isn’t a contender, but is much improved.
The Bulldogs ride a two-game winning streak into the game, including a 42-12 victory against Goldwater last week. Senior quarterback Dylan Smith and senior wide receiver Danny Gonzalez hooked up on six completions for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
TOLLESON (0-4, 0-1) at CENTENNIAL (4-0, 1-0)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 14388 N. 78th Ave., Peoria.
Centennial is into the shallow middle of its schedule against a Tolleson team adjusting to new coach Mike Brown, who took over late in the summer.
After giving up 50 or more points in its first three games, the Wolverines tightened up against Laveen Cesar Chavez, but could not solve the Champions’ defense in a 22-8 loss.
Centennial continues to cruise behind the tailback tandem of senior Vegas Johnson and sophomore Jalen Ortiz, who combined for 182 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-14 victory at Millennium. Junior quarterback Justin Sanchez remained impressive, throwing for 185 yards and three touchdowns on only eight completions.
Defense will be the focus for the Coyotes this week after Millennium senior DeAnthony Easley ripped off some big first-half runs.
AVONDALE WESTVIEW (3-1, 1-0) at IRONWOOD (1-3)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 6051 W. Sweetwater Ave., Glendale.
Ironwood begins Desert West Region play facing both the region powerhouses — Centennial hosts the Eagles next week.
Defense continues to be a sore spot for Ironwood after last week’s 45-28 loss to Phoenix St. Mary’s. The Eagles trailed 24-21 in the third quarter until junior tailback Orange Mooney ran for two scores and threw another.
Plugging the gaps will be crucial for the home team if they are to have any chance to slow Westview’s wing-T attack. The Knights average 311 rushing yards on 39 carries per game.
Senior Jordan Champion (398 yards, eight touchdowns) and sophomore Seivion Morris (335 yards) are twin tailback threats for Westview, and run behind one of the state’s better offensive lines. Eight players scored touchdowns in last week’s 62-7 romp over Avondale La Joya.
VALLEY VISTA (2-2, 0-1) DEER VALLEY (2-3, 0-1)
KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday at 18424 N. 51st Ave., Glendale.
Two teams trying to remain factors in the Northwest Region — and trying to forget last week — do battle at Deer Valley.
Valley Vista led Surprise rival Willow Canyon for most of last week’s showdown, but lost 8-7. The Monsoon defense was stellar, containing tailback Garrick Shelton, but three turnovers doomed their efforts.
This week, coach Jason Wilke said, is mainly about getting the kids past a tough loss to a rival and realizing they’re close to a breakthrough.
“We’re going to watch film and we’re going to put this game on a 12-hour rule, then it’s going to be over,” Wilke said. “There’s a heck of a lot of good from this game and we’re going to build from it. We’re not looking for moral victories, but there was a lot of great plays made tonight.”
Deer Valley, meanwhile, is just happy not to be playing a ranked team. They Skyhawks are coming off blowout losses to 5A-II #5 Sandra Day O’Connor (49-13) and #3 Tempe Marcos de Niza (56-20).
Despite gaining nearly 400 yards of total offense against O’Connor, Deer Valley had trouble putting points on the board.