Here are the top storylines heading into the sixth week of the season:
Underdog Tigers return
Gilbert pulled off the biggest upset of the 5A-I playoffs last year, bouncing No. 2 Basha, 31-21, in the first round of the playoffs. The No. 15 seed Tigers intercepted Bears quarterback Kyle Duran four times and held on for the win. Basha will be a similar favorite in this one, and Duran is back and looking for a different result. A win by the Bears would keep them undefeated heading into next week’s showdown with Desert Ridge, while Gilbert would love to pull the upset as it fights for a playoff berth.
No Parker, no problem?
Desert Ridge will be without Parker Rasmussen, who was ejected from last week’s win against Skyline and will serve an automatic one-game suspension. The Jaguars will have Jordan Becerra at quarterback full-time, as he and running back Joey Counts look to reproduce the running game magic that led the team to the 5A-I title game last season. The Mountain Lions are coming off an impressive 35-0 win over Gilbert last week, and with Marcus Brantley becoming a bigger part of the offense, the team may be starting to hit its stride.
Poston Butte is enjoying its initial foray into varsity competition quite a bit. The Broncos have started their maiden voyage 5-0 and are currently ranked No. 9 in Division III and are third in the power point standings. Poston Butte pulled out a 10-7 win over Campo Verde last week and gets another good test Friday against Coolidge. The Bears are 4-1 after losing a wild 64-59 contest to Florence last week, but are still ranked No. 4 in Division IV and will be a threat to Poston Butte.
A Pinnacle-Mountain View matchup doesn’t sound like a typical opponent for either school given their previous alignment or geography, but anything goes in this scheduling format. The beat rolls on up in Pinnacle, where the Pioneers are unbeaten for the season, including solid wins against Phoenix North Canyon and Horizon the past two weeks. The Pioneers’ running game (eight yards per carry as a team), a defense forcing turnovers and a mostly favorable schedule are why the Pioneers (5-0) are unbeaten. After an 0-2 start in which some Mountain View faithful wanted new coach Chad DeGrenier run out of the state, the Toros have won three consecutive games. Similar to Pinnacle, the competition hasn’t been elite, but it’s baby steps with this new Toro regime. Both teams need to pile up all wins now before the difficulties of October arrive.
In its first foray into AIA-sanctioned competition, Scottsdale Prep has lit up Division VI scoreboards as if this is basketball. An offense led by dual-threat QB Aidan Wright (1,398 yards passing and 27 touchdowns, 608 yards rushing and seven touchdowns) and WR Matt Munsil (530 yards, 10 TD) the Spartans have cruised to a 5-0 start, but will the good times last? Heber Mogollon has long been one of the best small schools in the state, and it is again despite a blowout loss to Joseph City. The Mustangs are an excellent running team, the kind of thing that can force a powerful offense to spend most of its time playing defense in 8-man competition.