It was a great regular season of Arizona high school football. Now, the best teams move on in their quest for a state title to the single elimination playoff brackets. The usual suspects are all present, and have been since basically the start of the season. Hamilton, Chaparral and Saguaro are the favorites in their respective divisions, even though Saguaro dropped to the fifth seed by rolling over against Chaparral last week. Here are the first round pairings for the top three divisions, with the higher seeds as the host teams.
#1 Hamilton vs. #16 Valley Vista
#8 Westview vs. #9 Chandler
#5 Red Mountain vs. #12 Sunnyside
#4 Desert Ridge vs. #13 Boulder Creek
#3 Desert Vista vs. #14 North Canyon
#6 Pinnacle vs. #11 Cibola
#7 Basha vs. #10 Tucson
#2 Brophy vs. #15 Mountain Pointe
The teams that appear to be most at risk are Pinnacle and Basha, who have struggled down the stretch. Brophy also has a tough draw, as lodeplus.com has Mountain Pointe as the 9th ranked team in this division. A potentially intriguing second round game looms if Chandler can defeat Westview. They would get a second shot at Hamilton, who won in the regular season only after a fourth quarter Chandler collapse. No team all year had a better chance at stopping Hamilton’s winning streak, and Chandler should have confidence after that first meeting.
#1 Chaparral vs. #16 Gila Ridge
#8 Perry vs. #9 Lake Havasu
#5 Centennial vs. #12 Willow Canyon
#4 Deer Valley vs. #13 Ironwood
#3 Salpointe Catholic vs. #14 Notre Dame
#6 Ironwood Ridge vs. #11 Apollo
#7 Marcos de Niza vs. #10 Canyon del Oro
#2 Cienega vs. #15 Sahuaro
It’s difficult to pinpoint an upset in this first round, as all the home teams seem to have a significant advantage. Canyon del Oro does boast playoff experience, having playing in the state championship last year. Ironwood Ridge should be on alert as well, as Apollo is always dangerous as long as Jonathan Brown (pictured) is taking the snaps.
#1 Sabino vs. #16 Campo Verde
#8 Williams Field vs. #9 Thunderbird
#5 Saguaro vs. #12 Sunrise Mountain
#4 Queen Creek vs. #13 Douglas
#3 Cactus vs. #14 Desert Edge
#6 Nogales vs. #11 Agua Fria
#7 Arcadia vs. #10 Peoria
#2 Liberty vs. #15 Poston Butte
Saguaro as the fifth seed is borderline ridiculous, and this seems to be a message to coaches throughout the state that sitting healthy players in regular season games won’t be without consequence. Regardless, now Sunrise Mountain inadvertantly gets penalized by having to play a team virtually unchallenged within this division. The game of the week here looks like Williams Field hosting Thunderbird, as this is a rematch of the 4A-II championship last year. Thunderbird took the title in overtime, 25-22.