Tempe Marcos de Niza has given up 155 points in its first three games, but it is 3-0, thanks to the play of dual-threat quarterback Josh Eckley, who threw all six of his touchdown passes in a second-half rally at home Friday night against Sierra Vista Buena. He also ran for two scores in a 78-57 shootout. Eckley, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, has thrown for 916 yards and 15 touchdowns and run for 404 yards and five TDs in three games.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Phoenix Pinnacle is a legitimate Division I championship contender, after taking two leads against Chandler Hamilton, before falling 24-20 to the defending state champions and top-ranked team Thursday. The defense stepped up and junior quarterback Brian Lewerke got into a rhythm after a slow start, before Hamilton kept Pinnacle’s offense off the field most of the final quarter, outgaining the Pioneers 194 yards to 5.
ON THE RISE
Tucson Palo Verde, Tucson Santa Rita and Rio Rico are each off to 3-0 starts after winning a combined eight games all of last season. Palo Verde and Santa Rita have new coaches . Santa Rita won only two games last season. Led by DeQuaven Brooks’ 151 rushing yards in a 34-21 win Friday over Tucson Cholla, Santa Rita, under interim coach John Tadlock, is off to its first 3-0 start since 2008 when it reached the state final.
MAKING A MOVE
Thatcher showed two weeks ago that it was a Division V championship contender with a victory at Yuma Catholic and showed no signs of an emotional letdown in a 28-21 home win over Safford. Quarterback Heath Motes passed for 165 yards and a touchdown and ran for 111 yards and a score against Safford. Jeff Shumway caught six passes for 101 yards.
UNDER THE RADAR
Snowflake usually plays second fiddle to White Mountains schools Lakeside Blue Ridge and Show Low, but after a 28-23 victory at Chandler Seton Catholic, Snowflake is in the mix of teams that have legitimate shots at winning the Division IV championship. Seton beat Show Low in the semifinals and Blue Ridge in the final last season and had a 13-game winning streak snapped by Snowflake, which was led by quarterback Ty Reidhead’s scoring run and scoring pass in the second half that helped his team rally from a 20-14 halftime deficit.
AROUND THE STATE
-San Tan Valley Combs, in its fourth varsity season, is 3-0 for the first time after beating Wickenburg 27-7.
-Queen Creek didn’t miss a beat without top running back Matt Guida, who was out with a hamstring injury. Backup Weston Barlow ran 27 times for 233 yards and four TDs in a 33-12 victory over Show Low (1-2), which came in as the No.1-ranked team in Division IV. Queen Creek (3-0) is the No.1 team in D.III.
-Cameron Denson caught nine passes for 156 yards and three TDs, leading top-ranked (Division II) Tucson Salpointe (4-0) to a 46-0 rout of Tucson Sunnyside. Sunnyside had fewer than 50 first-half yards as Salpointe built a 32-0 lead.
-Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge, which had to replace 21 of 22 starters from last year’s D.II championship team, is off to a 3-1 start after beating Oro Valley Canyon del Oro 42-14. Jake Vartanian ran for 164 of his team’s 367 rushing yards.
-Cave Creek Cactus Shadows is 3-0 after winning just three games in each of coach Greg Davis’s first two seasons. A 32-21 win over Glendale Apollo is the school’s first signature win under Davis. Apollo has given Ironwood Ridge its only loss this year and reached the D.II quarterfinals last year.
-Sophomore Daniel Bridge-Gadd completed 27 of 36 passes for 308 yards and two TDs in Paradise Valley’s 28-6 win at Cottonwood Mingus. Paradise Valley (3-0) will get its first big test Thursday against Phoenix Horizon (2-1).
-Senior running back Semisi Pulu set a Phoenix Arcadia single-game record with six touchdowns in a 48-14 win against Phoenix Camelback. The 5-foot-10, 255-pounder ran for 156 yards.
-Scottsdale Saguaro gave Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain its first loss, 69-21, as Luke Rubenzer threw five TD passes, two to J.T. Nettleton, who had four catches for 142 yards. Christian Kirk scored on a run, a catch and a punt return, and Isaiah Reece had 104 rushing yards and two TDs on just seven carries in a Division III game.
– Quarterback Nick Smith, returning from an injury after missing last week, set a Division V record with seven first-half touchdown passes in Scottsdale Prep’s 49-8 victory over Camp Verde. Ben McKeighan caught four TD passes in the half. Matt Munsil had four catches for 180 yards and two TDs.
– Junior Emanuel Gant threw three of his five touchdowns passes in the second quarter and finished with 350 passing yards in Tempe’s 69-38 rout of rival Tempe McClintock. Gant threw a 94-yard TD pass to Quinton Garrett to start the second half.
-Top-ranked (D.V) Phoenix Northwest Christian stifled Tempe Prep’s run game, and receiver Matt Delos caught a TD pass and ran for two scores in a 28-0 win.
-San Tan Foothills is off to its first 3-0 start, beating Miami 38-12, as Ricky Wilson and Saige Waxter each ran for more than 100 yards.
-Top-ranked (D.VI) Pima relied on defense to hold off St. David 20-12.
-Buckeye (3-0) was led by sophomore quarterback Art Bojorquez, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 235 yards and four TDs in a 41-12 win over Phoenix South Mountain. Quinten Hunt had two more TD catches, giving him seven in three games. He has had two called back. Buckeye had 561 yards against South Mountain.