SPOTLIGHT GAME: Scottsdale Chaparral scored two touchdowns in a four-minute span in the third quarter to take a 14-point lead and held off Tempe Marcos de Niza 35-21 in the Division II quarterfinal that featured three Tyler Whiley touchdown runs and a 42-yard scoring catch by Israel Simpson. It was the first time Chaparral (11-1) beat Marcos de Niza (7-5) in the past four meetings and avenged not only its lone loss this season but last year’s quarterfinal loss at Marcos de Niza. Elijah Castro had a 9-yard scoring run after Chaparral sacked Josh Eckley and forced a fumble with 3:25 left in the third quarter that gave Chaparral a 28-14 lead. Simpson helped set up two Chaparral TDs with a 31-yard diving catch and a 27-yard acrobatic catch.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Glendale Deer Valley players and coaches never stopped believing after they were put on probation by the Arizona Interscholastic Association for the school knowingly playing two ineligible players in a season-opening loss against Surprise Shadow Ridge. That probation was lifted late in the season after the school district took corrective action with the AIA and punished the principal and athletic director. The Skyhawks (9-3) put together their best team effort in a 20-14 victory at Peoria Centennial (10-2) in the Division II quarterfinal. Quarterback Devon Palomino hit Jacob Dennis with a 23-yard touchdown pass in the opening quarter and Deer Valley never lost the lead. The defense played much better than in a 34-7 loss to Centennial on Oct.4. Nobody expected Deer Valley to be a final four team this season, adversity or no adversity.
ON THE RISE: Chandler Hamilton (10-2) is back to playing up to its preseason promise with a full squad of healthy players, and a defense that refuses to take a back seat to anybody in the state. This became an angry and determined team after consecutive losses to Phoenix Mountain Pointe and Chandler. The Chandler loss especially hurt the seniors, because it was the first time Hamilton had ever lost a varsity game to its rival. Hamilton now has a chance to erase that memory with a Division I semifinal meeting. Hamilton dominated Phoenix Pinnacle in the second half of its 40-14 quarterfinal rout Friday. This is the time of year Hamilton plays lights out and, with an experienced defense that plays with a chip on its shoulder, you can’t rule the Huskies out as a chief challenger to Mountain Pointe for the crown.
MAKING A MOVE: Mountain Pointe senior receiver Jalen Brown has risen his level of play as the stakes keeping getting higher. He had three catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns in another rout, this time a 48-7 Div.I quarterfinal win over Mesa Red Mountain, that improved the Pride to 12-0. Brown, the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year last season and an Oregon commit, hasn’t been the focal point of an offense that pounds teams into submission with the run game. But, when his number is called, he simply makes plays as well if not better than any player in the state.
UNDER THE RADAR: Queen Creek running back Weston Barlow. Everybody has been waiting for the return of running back Matt Guida, who made All-Arizona last season when he led the Bulldogs to the Division III championship with an unbeaten season. Guida has hardly played this year because of an injury. No worry. Barlow has got this. Barlow again came through in a 42-14 quarterfinal rout of previously unbeaten Peoria with 313 rushing yards and four touchdowns in just 17 carries. Barlow has racked up 1,857 rushing yards and 22 TDs in 10 games. The junior is averaging about 10 yards a carry. He missed two games with an injury.
AROUND THE STATE
-Senior receiver/cornerback Cameron Denson intercepted two more passes, giving him seven on the season, and had seven catches for 100 yards and a TD in Tucson Salpointe’s 45-14 Div.II quarterfinal rout of Peoria Liberty. It was the first time Salpointe (12-0) gave up double-digit points in a game, but the Lancers built a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter.
-Gilbert Williams Field, the top seed in Div.III, may have appeared vulnerable to some after losing quarterback Jeddediah Fagg with an injury before the playoffs. But not to Williams Field, which played tough defense and got a big special teams play in a 29-26 victory over Oro Valley Canyon del Oro. Kyle Gill’s 6-yard scoring run with 4:29 left gave Williams Field the winning points. Jacob Anderson ran for 205 yards, including a 70-yard TD. Darius Williams returned a kickoff 92 yards for a TD in the third quarter after CdO had taken a 20-7 lead.
-Scottsdale Saguaro senior QB Luke Rubenzer added to his all-time TD passes state record with five more in a 48-20 Div.III quarterfinal rout of Tucson Sabino, setting up a semifinal showdown against unbeaten Goodyear Desert Edge. Rubenzer now has 118 career TD passes.
-After completing just three first-half passes, senior QB Anthony Hernandez threw four TD passes in Desert Edge’s 39-14 quarterfinal win over Surprise Shadow Ridge. Freshman Roshaun Johnson had 102 rushing yards and 112 receiving yards for 12-0 Desert Edge.
-Mesa Desert Ridge (11-1) will get that anticipated Div.I semifinal matchup with Mountain Pointe, after junior RB Taren Morrison ran for 358 yards and five TDs in a 44-24 rout of Phoenix Brophy Prep (5-7). Desert Ridge rolled up 506 rushing yards.
-Chandler junior Bryce Perkins ran for four touchdowns and passed for two more in a 49-21 Div.I quarterfinal win over Chandler Basha. It was the second time in a month that Chandler (10-2) scored 49 points on Basha (6-6).
-Jordan Robinson intercepted a pass in the end zone in overtime, and QB Payton Haslam scored on a 1-yard run, lifting Gilbert Mesquite to a 26-20 Div.II quarterfinal victory over neighborhood rival Campo Verde. Campo Verde sent the game into overtime on Austin Wells’ 42-yard field goal as time expired.