During what should be this most wonderful time of year for teams fortunate enough to still be playing.
Instead, it’s also a frustrating time for a pair of Division I semifinalists.
Desert Ridge beat Westview last week but lost quarterback Tarek Morrison to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
He joins fellow 1,000-yard rusher J.J, Husar on the sidelines (also with an ACL tear), which saps the Jaguars of their two most potent offensive weapons against a defensive giant in Hamilton. Backup quarterback Brendon Smith takes over, while Taren Morrison, Danny Siamau and Nathaniel Rodriguez should see the majority of the carries.
Brophy running back Marche Dennard (sprained ankle) played sparingly last week as the Broncos slipped past Red Mountain, 14-13, and it remains to be seen if he’s fully healthy for Friday’s matchup with Mountain Pointe.
Teammate Devon Allen (sprained ankle) missed the game against the Mountain Lions after getting injured in a first-round win over Chandler. If he can’t play or is limited, it further hinders the Brophy offense.
Here's a look at other storylines to follow this weekend during Friday's and Saturday's state semifinals:
Second time around
All three East Valley-centric semifinal matchups in the top two divisions are rematches. Hamilton defeated a full-strength Desert Ridge team in the regular season, which seems to bode well for the Huskies, as they are playing better now and the Jaguars are short-handed. Brophy trailed Mountain Pointe by 11 points at the half in their contest on Sept. 28, but exploded with 44 points in the second half and cruised to the win. It was the Pride’s lone regular season loss as it looks to get revenge while punching its ticket to the championship game. Marcos de Niza had a pair of punts and an extra point blocked against Ironwood Ridge, and couldn’t climb out of an early hole in a 35-27 loss. It is the only blemish on the Padres’ record this season as they look to return the favor and make the title game for the second time in four years.
Will they meet again?
For those wanting to see the far SE Valley undergo a great divide, fingers crossed. Queen Creek and Williams Field are on a collision course again. The Bulldogs survived their toughest test of the season and slipped by Phoenix Thunderbird in the quarterfinals. Queen Creek gets No. 14 Nogales for the chance to make a championship appearance since it was a Class 2A school in 1998. To do so, the Bulldogs will try and bulldoze its way through a Nogales team that’s undoubtedly the best feel-good story of these playoffs with wins at No. 3 Tucson Sabino and at No. 11 Peoria Sunrise Mountain. Williams Field hung on to beat a feisty Campo Verde team a second time this season, then beat Peoria Liberty with an explosive 28-point fourth quarter in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Goodyear Desert Edge is up next after the Scorpions scored 35 points in the second half to erase a big deficit and knock off two-time defending champion Saguaro.
Tempe Prep’s next step
After two consecutive trips to the Class 2A/Div. V quarterfinals, Tempe Prep broke another barrier as the Knights are in the semifinals for the first time in school history. Led by Levi Hartzler, Ahmari Underwood and an unheralded but stingy defense, the Knights knocked off No. 6 Thatcher, 26-14, in the quarterfinals, a game that was closer than the final score indicates. The Knights ran for 258 yards and held Thatcher to 50 yards, though three turnovers by TP made things interesting. No. 2 Morenci just hammered No. 7 Arizona Lutheran Academy (which beat Tempe Prep earlier this season) as Morenci ran 46 times for 483 yards in the win, as Morenci has topped 50 points in both playoff games thus far. It’s run vs. run.