#1 Mt. View vs. #16 Tucson
I have said this before and I will say it again, Mt. View just reloads. They lost a ton of players but the kids in this system keep replacing the old ones. QB Blake Decker is a dual threat QB and when he went down with an injury, Brad Heap did not miss a beat. Jacob Brimhall rushed for 1,200 yards while helping the offense average over 40 points per game. The defense gave up just 9 per game and are lead by Nate Bircher and Andrew Nicholl, who both recorded double-digit sacks.
Tucson High unexpectedly put up a very sound season with QB Nate Borquez as their leader. They lost to every playoff team they faced and I don't see an upset in the making.
Prediction: Mt. View big.
#8 Corona del Sol vs. #9 Cesar Chavez
Corona lost their last two games after winning their first 8. They are solid in all aspects of the game but I really like how tough RB Michael Lange runs. Chase Cartwright is one of the state's top junior gunslingers and their defense is rock solid.
Chavez was much improved under Jim Rattay this year. Brandon Cluff and Davonte Neal were new to the program but instrumental in the turnaround. RB TJ Smith is a hard nosed runner.
This has the makings of a close one but I think Corona will be out to prove all doubters wrong.
Prediction: Corona big.
#5 Brophy vs. #12 Basha
Basha started the year off hot with a 4-1 record but faced BCP in week 6 and went south, going 2-3 down the stretch. Brophy on the other hand has won 6 straight after a brutal first half schedule.
One thing is for sure, both teams are well coached and will be ready to play.
Prediction: It was close in the last game and I expect it to be the same. I like how Brophy has progressed during the season so I will go with the Broncos.
#4 Desert Vista vs. #13 Highland
Many people trashed DV after their week 1 loss to a Gilbert team that turned out to be pretty darn good. They won the region title, on;y losing to Centennial along the way. They did this despite the loss of their best player and emotional leader Devon Kennard. QB Cody Sokol and WR Casey Bolena have led this offense for much of the year. While Danny Mullarkey stepped up in Kennard's absence. This is when DV got hot last year, could they make another run?
Highland was hot early but cooled off significantly going just 3 of 5 down the stretch. They were able to pull off an upset of Pinnacle during that time. James Pazos is their top player on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: I think this could be close early but in the end, DV should pull this out.
#3 Salpointe vs. #14 Mesa
Mesa won 4 straight to get into the playoffs and relied on a strong ground game to do so. Coach Moore had 6 players rush for over 100 yards on the year, their leader being Greg King.
Salpointe won 9 games, their only blemish being a loss to 5A2 power Ironwood Ridge. The Lancers' offense I believe has too many weapons from QB Trevor Eggleston to RB Christian Ramirez to WR Mike Descisciolo for the Jackrabbits to deal with. Plus driving down to Tucson is never fun.
Prediction: Salpointe big.
#6 Mt. Ridge vs. #11 Red Mountain
Mt. Ridge quietly won 8 games and beat quality opponents in Sunnyside, Pinnacle and Skyline. QB Kevin Yost definitely leads this team and he will have to have a big night in the air as MR lacks a ground game.
Ridge may be able to exploit a Red Mountain defense that gave up more points than their offense scored. Offensively the Mt. Lions are lead by QB Derek Mendoza and RB Derek Molina, both amassed over 1,000 yards of total offense.
Prediction: I will pick Ridge in a close one but would not be surprised to see Red Mountain win it.
#7 Chandler vs. #10 Gilbert
Gilbert is very similar to Mt. View, they play big year in and year out, they have few D1 kids and are well coached and play hard. It is obvious that Jesse Parker knows what he is doing over there.
Chandler on the other hand is loaded!! They have multiple D1 players on their roster and have a boatload of team speed. Bryce Lamb and Markus Wheaton are two of the state's most highly sought after players. Caleve Deboskie is overshadowed by Wheaton but actually leads the team in receiving yards. LB Rodney Reagans mans the middle for the D and Jeremy Morris, along with Lamb, form a very talented secondary.
Prediction: On paper, Chandler has this won but these two teams went to OT in their last game and it is hard to beat a team twice. I will go with Gilbert in a mini upset.
#2 Hamilton vs. #15 North Canyon
Hamilton is loaded like always and only has a loss to Centennial on their record. They have two D1 WRs in Drew Terrell and Alante Wright and two big RBs running behind a big offensive line. Bottomline, the Huskies are big and fast at all positions and look poised to make another run at the title.
Prediction: North Canyon has a solid team but I just think Hamilton has too much firepower.