#1 Saguaro vs. #16 Lake Havasu
The Brent Michaels lead Knights must make the long travel down to Scottsdale to face a team that has won 29 straight. Havasu is very run oriented, rushing for over double what they have thrown for. RB Brent Michaels is dangerous but Saguaro's defense is fresh off of holding the state's top back, Mike Brown from Cactus, to 60 yards.
The Saguaro offense has averaged over 41 points per game behind three players that have averaged over 10 yards per carry. Beau Burton and Austin Swindle are a great 1-2 punch and QB Cole Rarrick has great weapons in Erik Brown and Paul Porras to throw to.
Prediction- Saguaro big.
#8 Sabino vs. #9 Cactus
Cactus went 7-3 with a strong ground game, led by Mike Brown, and playing strong defense. Jay Campos chooses to spread the ball out a bit more for the Sabercats. He has seven RBs rush for at least 100 yards this season. Their top offensive weapons are Keanu Nelson and Scotty Brown, who both have amassed nearly 1,000 yards of offense a piece.
I expect Sabino to stack the box to stop Brown and force Cactus to beat them in the air. Their defense seems up to the challenge as they have allowed under 10 points per game. Traveling to Tucson is a huge negative for the Cobras but expect Coach Fetkenhier to have his team ready. This one could come down to the kicking game.
Prediction- Sabino in a close one
#5 Millennium vs. #12 McClintock
The Tigers went 8-2 under first year head coach Curtis Mays and are playing very well, coming off wins over rival Agua Fria and playoff teams Cactus and Queen Creek. McClintock played possibly the toughest schedule in 4A as 8 of their opponents made the post-season. This team goes where two-way star Eric Urry takes them.
Millennium might have too much firepower, with QB Mike Massey, RB Marquis Flowers and WR Demetrius Wilson but I am sure McClintock head Coach Mike Gibbons will be bringing up last year's round 1 upset of Cactus.
Prediction- Millennium in a game that will be closer than most expect.
#4 Peoria vs. #13 Sunnyslope
Not many people expected Sunnyslope to be 7-3 this year but head coach Tim Mayfield has done a great job. He spreads the ball around and has been pretty balanced between run and pass. The Vikings pulled off a huge upset, beating Palo Verde early. I just feel Peoria has too much firepower and no one has the speed to hang with Jamal Miles.
Prediction- Peoria big
#3 Paradise Valley vs. #14 Catalina Foothills
This is PV's last year in 4A1 and they are talented enough to make a run at the title. Their only blemishes were close losses to Chaparral and Saguaro. They are solid in all facets of the game. QB Kevin Spain has a solid group of receivers to throw to and RB Tyree Parker is a load at 200+ pounds. Defensively, their secondary is their strong point with Ebo Makinde, Dylan Borys and David Godley leading the way. Kicker Danny Compton is the best in the state.
Do not underestimate Catalina Foothills or their 6-4 record. They lost to four very sound teams (Cienega, Santa Rita, Sabino and CDO). Offensively, they get it done by committee. RBs Pablo Gross and Steve Dennis lead the way but 1st year head coach has had 5 RBs rush for 200 yards this year.
Prediction- This could be close early but expect PV to pull this one out.
#6 Canyon del Oro vs. #11 Prescott
CDO's one loss is a 1 point loss to Cactus but their low strength of schedule gave them the 6 seed. Their 1-2 punch of Griffin Ronstadt and Kadeem Carey is as good as you will find. Defensively, they really get after it. They gave up just over 8 points per game, pitched 4 shutouts and sacked the QB 24 times as a team.
Prescott started off the year just 1-3 but won six straight to win their region. They struggled against playoff opponents, going just 1-3. Their one win was against Sunnyslope. Their run game is definitely their strength as RBs Brian Scates, Jake Jarvis and Joey Mancha each rushed for at least 500 yards.
Prediction- Prescott has a long bus ride to Tucson and although Prescott has been playing better, I feel CDO is too much for them.
#7 Cienega vs. #10 Apache Junction
Cienaga had a great season. Their two losses came to Chaparral and CDO by a total of 10 points. Their offense goes where QB Seth Mejias Brean has accounted for over 2,000 yards of offense, leading the team in passing and rushing. DB David Abyeta leads the D with 6 INTs.
AJ went 8-3 and beat playoff teams Agua Fria, Queen Creek and McClintock along the way. Their losses came at the hands of Chaparral, Paradise Valley and Saguaro, the 1, 2 and 3 seeds. The Prospectors are a run first team and they do not hide it. They ave rushed for 3,300 yards and passed for just 300. Their defense is led by DE Rusty Fernando, whose non-stop motor could mean trouble for Brean.
Prediction- AJ in an upset
#2 Chaparral vs. #15 Agua Fria
Agua Fria won the games they were supposed to and got in the playoffs with a 4-6 record based on the brutal schedule they faced. They faced 7 playoff bound teams and beat just one of them (Lake Havasu). The Owls had 4 backs rush for at least 200 yards but struggled in the passing game, completing just 44% of their passes for roughly 700 yards.
Chaparral's lone loss came at the hands of Saguaro and if they want to avenge that loss, the Firebirds will have to make it all the way to the state title game. Their defense has been strong, giving up just 13 points per game behind a strong d-line led by Craig Roh and Derrick Nsubuga. Spencer Stone has been their leader on O but expect to see a lot of junior RB Dwayne Garrett as the Owls have had trouble stopping the run.
Prediction- Chaparral big