Brophy vs. Mountain Ridge
Almost three months ago, Brophy and Mt. Ridge started their seasons playing each other in the opener. When they are done playing Friday night at Horizon high school, one team's season will be over and the other will move on to Sun Devil stadium for the state championship. Since the first game, won by Brophy 27 – 21, both teams have traveled very different roads to make it to the 3rd round of the playoffs. Brophy, started the season relatively unheralded, but behind the stellar season of linebacker turned running back Markel Devorce, and the steady play and improvement of sophomore QB Conor Hearn, put together an 11-1 season. Mt.Ridge, on the other hand, started the season with lofty expectations behind high profile players Nick Covey, Tim Ham, Nick Bell and Austin Martin only to lose four of their first five games, eventually fighting their way into the playoffs as a #16 seed.
The tale of this game first begins with the QBs. As Mt.Ridge fought injuries they looked for a steadying presence. That presence became Austin Martin. Martin a three year starter as a DB and WR brought a playmaker's ability to the quarterback position. His ability to improvise makes him very tough to scheme for. During Mt.Ridge's current seven game win streak, Martin has compiled over 1,400 yards of total offense. All of this while still playing safety. For Brophy coach Jeff Kearin, it took a great leap of faith to start a 10th grader at QB. That gamble has paid off in that Conor Hearn plays well beyond his age. This season Hearn, has a great thirteen to two touchdowns to interception ratio. Further, in watching him play he does a great job of making reads and checking down to receivers. Last week against Red Mountain Hearn contributed eighteen points as kicker and QB.
I'm old school but I believe to win championships at some point you must move the chains with the run game. Both teams are very capable of doing this. Brophy's Devorce has had the most consistent season as a runner in the state, compiling an average of over 160 yards a game this season. In the first meeting against Mt.Ridge, Devorce had over 200 yards rushing. If Devorce is the most consistent back in the state, Mt. Ridge's Nick Bell may be the hottest. With Tim Ham limited by injuries, Bell has taken the bulk of the carries and averaged 234 rush yards per game thus far in the playoffs.
Last,and of course not least, defense! In their current five game run, Brophy is only allowing eleven points a game. Last week they held Channing Trotter in check while blanking Red Mountain. In their seven game run since midseason, Mt. Ridge is allowing fifteen points a game.
Tale of the Tape: Balance is the name of the game for Brophy. In their last seven wins they are averaging over 220 yards rushing and 145 yards passing per game. In the first meeting of the season, Mt.Ridge offensively out gained Brophy almost 2 to 1 but did not get the win.
Brophy 54 Maryvale 20
Mt.Ridge 38 Paradise Valley 24
Brophy 24 Red Mountain 0
Mt.Ridge 29 Mt.View 26
Hamilton vs. Highland
You know the story, last years 5A state champ Hamilton was cruising, outscoring opponents 273 to 48, then on October 22nd they ran into a then, 4 and 3 Highland squad. Heck, we did not even send a reporter to the game!! Bam, Highland 37 Hamilton 15. In that game Highland found themselves rushing for 379 yards, controlling the ball for over thirty minutes and only having one penalty. Since then Highland has become the story of 5A, going without a loss to some of the toughest programs in the state. You can bet Hamilton coach John Wrenn has reminded his veteran squad about this blemish on their record. In the last three games, the Huskies have outscored opponents 131 to 24, and have yet to be challenged in playoffs. Highland on the other hand, has been involved in two tough games against Westwood and Corona to get to this rematch.
The keys to this game may not be the marquee stories, but rather, the secondary stories. When you think of Hamilton, Travis Dixon to Mekell Wesley comes to mind, yet in the last four games RB Cody Engelbrecht is averaging just at 110 yards rushing. For Highland the current win streak has been fueled by a hardnosed run game and stiff D, but if you look a little closer QB Ryan Fair has been instrumental and opportunistic. As teams have packed the box the last two weeks to stop the methodical run game, Fair, has gone 21 of 35 for 269 yards and 2 TDs. You have to play him honest.
Check the trenches in this game as the Hamilton D line digs in to stop the Highland O line that put up nearly 400 rush yards on them the last game. Also keep and eye out, many of the Highland linemen go both ways.
Tale of the Tape: In wins against Hamilton and Chandler, Highland was able to control the time of possession. The last three games Hamilton is averaging 416 yards of offense a game. In those three wins, Travis Dixon is averaging over 230 yards a game throwing and running the ball.
Hamilton 54 North 3
Highland 17 Westwood 14
Hamilton 42 Salpointe 21
Highland 21 Corona 17