Since this is my ninth straight season of being a part of the AIA365.com broadcast team, and co-host of THE most listened to high school football wrap-up show in the state, I figure I would put together my prognostications for this year's playoffs. So, feel free to rip away either now, or wait until after the state title games to do it then. Either way, enjoy my thoughts.
Let's start with Division 6, eight-man football. They are in the semi's now, so we will start there.
One semifinal is a game I will be broadcasting on AIA365.com with my good friend Chris Martin, Bagdad vs. Gilbert Christian at 2 p.m. at Shadow Mountain High School.
Gilbert Christian has put up some impressive numbers this season, including scoring nearly 90 points in a game. The Knights are led by quarterback Bailey Anderson, who threw ten touchdowns in that game alone. However, the Sultans have a tough defense, but I'll go with scoring..Gilbert Christian wins and will play Pima for the title. Mogollon isn't as strong as in year's past and Pima has been tough for the last couple of years now. With that said, Pima wins the D6 state title, in a close game over Gilbert Christian.
Now to D5: This one is tough. Any one of about 6 teams could win. I like ALA, NW Christian, St. Johns (in the upset) and Joy Christian. Now, you are probably thinking I'm homering that pick with St. Johns. A little, but I have reason. Having talked to other coaches and watching some film, I am confident if SJ gets there, they can pull the upset. The Redskins have a nice team that is well coached and won't give up. The Shamrocks are a BIG team, but some there think they are already planning for the semifinals. If that's true, the Redskins can win..and I think will. I like ALA beating NW Christian, but this could be opposite. The Crusaders want revenge on the Coyotes from a loss earlier this year. I think Joy Christian beats St. Johns. I think JC is just too much for the upset minded Redskins. I have ALA winning the state title, beating Joy Christian's chance at winning two state straight state titles in two different divisions. JC won the D6 title last year before moving up. A team that could cause some headaches is Round Valley. They are unknown to the valley teams and that plays into their hands. Watch out for the Elks. This division could go any way and won't be surprised if it does, but this is how I think right now. Winner: Arizona Lutheran Academy.
Now D4: I have Show Low winning this division all the way, with very little trouble in my opinion. Advancing to the semis are: Show Low, Blue Ridge, River Valley and Seton Catholic the defending D5 champs. I took River Valley over Snowflake because I have heard some good things about the Dust Devils. I saw the Lobos beat Seton earlier in the year and they are a tough, physical team. Wouldn't be surprised if it's three mountain teams in the semis, I just like RV a little more. Show Low beats Blue Ridge again, Seton over River Valley. Show Low wins by 10-14 points. I love Kyle Johnson the Seton QB. He has a GREAT arm, but there isn't enough weapons for the Sentinals to the the Cougars. Winner: Show Low.
Onto D3: There are three teams that can win the state title. Williams Field, Saguaro and Desert Edge. All have speed and great offenses, but Williams Field impressed me on defense. They have some kids who can hit and tackle. Of course Saguaro have the 1-2 punch of Luke Rubenzer at QB and Christian Kirk at..well..everything. He is to them now as D.J. Foster was for the Sabercats when he played there. My semi picks: Williams Field, Queen Creek, Desert Edge and Saguaro. I have QC beating Peoria. But, the Panthers could give QC a run, but the Cougars are healthy with a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield. Desert Edge-Saguaro SHOULD be for the title game, but they still play in the semis. Offensive records could be broken in this game. A lot of speed, but I will take Saguaro slightly over Desert Edge. The last time WF and QC played, the Black Hawks dominated. Williams Field is without its starting QB for the rest of the year and he is a good one. But, I believe in the rally effect when a teammate goes down, especially with a good coaching staff at Williams Field. It will be a closer game but WF wins. Saguaro beats Williams Field in the state title game with speed and play making, however Williams Field should keep it close. Winner: Saguaro.
Now D2: This is Salpointe's state title to lose. They are a very good football team and some think they could give Mountain Pointe a run in D1. But they won't play, so let's forget it. Here are my semifinal picks: Salpointe, Centennial, Chaparral and Mesquite. The first three are locks IMO, but..watch Campo Verde here. They are well coached and have some nice wins. But, defense wins championships and Mesquite has that so we will go with them. Salpointe-Centennial will be VERY entertaining. Both have speed, both play good defense and both hasn't really been challenged. The Coyotes lost to Chandler in week one with a lot of mistakes. Bad tackling and turnovers cost them against the Wolves. Since then, they have been very good. However, Salpointe has beaten two good teams from out of state, Liberty from Henderson, Nevada and Crespi from Encino, California, both blowouts and both on the road. That's big. Salpointe wins, but Centennial will make it interesting. Chaparral is playing at a high level right now and should get QB Sean Paul Brophy back this week, which is huge. If he stays healthy, they will get to the title game. Mesquite is very good on defense, but not enough offense to keep up. Chap wins. The title game will be amazing and I'll be honest, Chap wins if they play the perfect game. No turnovers or dumb penalties. That's what it's going to take to beat the Lancers. This game is at the UofA and it makes a difference. Salpointe wins, but this could be a very close game. Winner: Salpointe Catholic.
Now...D1: Again..this is Mountain Pointe's title to lose. They are very very good. All three facets of the game are nearly flawless. A good reason they are one of the top-ten teams in the nation, according to MaxPreps. The way they beat down nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman in game one, at their home, was beyond impressive. The Pride have steamrolled since then. They took apart Chandler quickly. Beat down Hamilton. Just dominated along the way. The only question is, who are they going to play for the title. Here's my final four: Mountain Pointe, Desert Ridge, Hamilton and Chandler. Pretty cut and dry for me here. Hamilton could face a challenge from Pinnacle if they play, but that's about it. What a semifinals. I LOVE Desert Ridge and what Jeremy Hathcock has built there. He finally has enough talent and depth where he doesn't have to play everyone both ways. Not to mention the Morrison brothers who are deadly on offense. However, they get the best team maybe in the last five years in Mountain Pointe. Sorry my friend, the Pride advance. Hamilton...Chandler. Nothing more needs to be said really. The Wolves FINALLY got their first win over Hamilton since Hamilton has been open, which is 18 years. This time, Chandler is the better team. IF they stay focused on the task at hand, they can beat Hamilton. BUT..this is where coach Steve Belles shines. I'll take the Huskies but by a field goal. So...Mountain Pointe...Hamilton for the title. The dominant team versus the program. Like I said, Mountain Pointe will have to beat themselves to lose the title. In my opinion, they don't. The Pride win the state title over Hamilton. Winner: Mountain Pointe.
I have to add, I talked to Mountain Pointe head coach Morris Vaughn for a good half-hour last Saturday at the selection show. I want to play for him. Old school coach and is incredibly smart. He told me that Desert Ridge, Chandler and Hamilton are all better than his team. It's all coach speak, but he had examples for why and I listened. He told me Chandler has the best athletes and I think that's true. I told him sometimes it takes coaching and belief. That's Hamilton and Mountain Pointe.
The best part of all of this we will get to see this all play out on the field. This will be a great playoff season D1 through D6.
All the best to the coaches and players that will take part in this great event. I hope for no injuries and fair play among everyone.
Before I end this, I want to give a clap to Marcos head coach Roy Lopez, who has been put on leave at the school and won't coach the Padres in the first round. He has always had time for us and is a good man. As of this writing, I don't know what happened at Marcos, but I hope it isn't serious and we will see him at another program soon. All the best coach.
Don't forget to catch myself, Curt Blakney, Ben Gabrielson and James Mello for the AIA365.com Friday Night Wrap-Up Show, this Friday night from 9:30-11:30 p.m. on AM 860 in Phoenix and on ArizonaSports.com. Join us then.