Desert Vista at Hamilton
Pound-for-pound these are two of the most talented teams in Division I, and a rematch in the state championship game is not out of the question. But first up is this regular season game, the first meeting since the Thunder stunned the Huskies to win last year’s title. Running back Jarek Hilgers is the key player for Desert Vista and he must be stopped, although Hamilton has the front seven to do so. The Desert Vista defensive line is also impressive, and if Hamilton is forced to throw 25 times, it could be in trouble. The quarterback (AJ Thigpen for Hamilton, Matt Young for Desert Vista) who has the better game very well could lead his team to victory.
Prediction: Hamilton 24, Desert Vista 20
— Kyle Odegard
Mountain View at Red Mountain
Now it’s a bit of a gut-check time for Red Mountain after being shoved around by Desert Ridge last week. Though not as fast as Desert Ridge’s three-headed rushing attack, the Lions’ defense will have to deal with a balanced, sneakily-effective offense that Mountain View has put together in the past couple weeks. There’s also special teams to consider, which has been good for both these teams, especially, Mountain View last week. Mountain View’s defense has held up nicely during this four-game winning streak, but hasn’t seen anything resembling Red Mountain’s passing attack.
Prediction: Red Mountain 35, Mountain View 21
— Mark Heller
Desert Ridge at Basha
After falling flat (albeit short-handed) against Hamilton a couple weeks ago, Desert Ridge served notice in last week’s 31-8 win against Red Mountain, in which the Jaguars ran for 372 yards and threw one pass all night and held Red Mountain to 230 yards offense. Does last year’s 63-24 victory for Desert Ridge over Basha mean anything here? Hard to say, as the Bears have been a dominant offensive team in stretches when they don’t commit turnovers. Running back JJ Husar transferred from Basha to Desert Ridge last winter, and while he’s downplayed the matchup, it’d be foolish to think a nice night running the ball wouldn’t beget a sweet victory. The issues are whether Basha can stop the run and whether the Bears’ prolific offense can do what Red Mountain’s couldn’t last week.
Prediction: Desert Ridge 38, Basha 27
— Mark Heller
Highland at Desert Mountain
The Hawks shut down a potent offense two weeks ago against Basha, but couldn’t hold on late in a 21-17 loss. They get another tough test against Desert Mountain’s dynamic duo of quarterback Kyle Allen (99-of-143 for 1,559 yards, 22 TD, 5 INT) and wide receiver Mark Andrews (40 catches, 779 yards, 13 TD). Highland wants to keep the score down and control the game on the ground. The Wolves would prefer a shootout while the Hawks plan on running the ball and eating up clock. The Hawks are clearly better than they’ve been in some time, and would love a signature win like this one. Desert Mountain, though, is the only undefeated team left in Division I and aims to stay that way.
Prediction: Desert Mountain 28, Highland 20
— Kyle Odegard