Thanks for joining me tonight to talk some high school football. Let's get to some questions.
Apollo comes into tomorrow night's matchup at I-Ridge with a 10-1 mark and have a lot of weapons on offense. The Hawks haven't lost since a Week 4 setback to Peoria Centennial and have a dangerous QB in Jordan Gungl. All that said, Ironwood Ridge is a very good football team with a very good coach. The Nighthawks are also 10-1 and beat Centennial in September. The Apollo-Centennial score? Centennial 70, Apollo 20. It's always dangerous to evaluate matchups that way, but it is something to consider.
The Ravens have a great 1-2 punch at running back with Chance Hatfield and Spencer Woody. And they will have to be solid on Saturday for Empire to have a good shot at upsetting the No. 4 seed. In recent weeks, receiver J.J. Gretta has emerged as a solid option on offense too, giving the Ravens more balance. Gretta and quarterback Grayson Weeks are just as important as Hatfield and Woody on Saturday.
Salpointe beat Mountain View 40-10 in Week 4 and haven't looked back since. I think both teams are a lot better now than they were when they met the first time. I think in the end, Salpointe will win again and move on to the semifinals. But, the Mountain Lions have been a great story this season and with a couple of breaks could certainly add onto it tomorrow night. Clarence McRae has done a great job in his first season as coach and a pair of juniors in the backfield, QB Cody Rochon and RB Richie Estrada, have really stepped up.
I think so. I believe Salpointe's longtime head coach will lead his team to the semifinals and I don't think they're stopping there. Coach Bene is clearly one of the top-notch coaches in Southern Arizona and has had to deal with the Phoenix powers in the state's highest classification for years. They're my favorite to win the state championship in Division II and I'm not the only one who has them winning it all.
Very big. I don't think it's as cut and dry as the Apaches go as McCarty goes, but he's a huge piece to their success. He's really emerged as a threat catching passes out of the backfield the past three weeks and that has made him a lot more dangerous. If Nogales is able to get him the ball a lot tomorrow night and he's able to churn out yards, it will greatly increase the chance for a win. He's been a great running back the past three seasons and, as a senior, I'm sure he wants to keep playing for another week or so.
You are right about that. Sunrise rolled up some serious yards and points last week in the opening round against Sahuarita and Nogales will have its hands full trying to shut them down. However, despite giving up 30+ points to a high-powered offense in Sabino last week, the Apaches pulled out a win and got stops when they needed it. I don't think the Apaches will be able to totally shut the Sunrise offense down, but it has to limit big plays, create a few turnovers and score points early and often. Also, keep an eye on Sunrise receiver Elroy Masters. He has six scholarship offers and is dangerous with more than 1,100 yards this season.
Sierra Vista Buena and Tucson have appealed to drop down to Division II next season and I think that's smart. It will cut down on travel and give them a better chance to win more games. It's been very hard for Tucson teams to go far into the playoffs. I think you'll see deeper playoff runs by those teams and more success. Buena and Tucson certainly held their own this season, but Buena would probably still be playing if it was in Division II and Tucson probably would have found a way into the playoffs if it was DII.
I think the Sabercats will win another title, sure. It was a tough way to end the season this year with a first-round exit and I think a lot of folks around the Sabino program were thinking this could be the year for a state championship. But, the Sabercats have plenty returning next season and coach Jay Campos always keeps them competitive. In Division III, I believe they'll have a shot at state most years. The 2013 team will be based around a pair of studs in Matt Bushman and Andrew Mike. That's a great place to start.
It seems like the Lancers have settled into a groove the past two weeks with Andrew Cota at QB and Cameron Denson at wide receiver. Denson has been playing more defense and is a weapon in the defensive backfield. Denson has clearly proven he is a huge threat out of the quarterback spot, but the Lancers offense seems to run more smoothly against good competition with Cota under center and Denson on the outside making plays. The bottom line is it sure is a fun dilemma to have for coach Dennis Bene.
I'm not sure one player does. I think that's what makes the Salpointe defense so good. All three of their linebackers--Carlos Carroll, Taylor Powell and Jake Casteel-- are standouts and the defensive line is also strong. Cameron Denson and Jay Williams have been great in the secondary and there are guys that I'm not mentioning that have also contributed in a big way.
It was certainly one of the bigger ones in a while. Unranked Canyon del Oro beat No. 2 Phoenix Maryvale in 1992 and this was probably the biggest first-round upset since that one. I did not see it coming. At this point, Nogales definitely has a shot tomorrow against Sunrise Mountain. It will be tough and will take another great effort. If they are able to get the win, it'll mark the first time in program history the team posted back-to-back 10-win seasons.
The emergence of RB Richie Estrada has been huge for the Mountain Lions. He's rushed for more than 1,600 yards and is a player opposing teams have to gameplan for. He's had help from his offensive line and QB Cody Rochon has been solid. The defense has also been good. Junior LB Corbin Gouby is a playmaker with 80 tackles and has been one of the better linebackers in Tucson for two years.
Yes, definitely. The Lancers do graduate a lot of talent, but also have a ton of sophomores and juniors making plays. They even have a freshman, Justin Holt, who's been good on the defensive line. The Lancers have a chance to be even better next year then they were this year if players continue to develop.
It's tough to know exactly what Mountain View learned that game, but they are clearly a better team than they were then. The thing for the Mountain Lions is Salpointe is going to look a lot different this time around. Denson was at QB last time and had a heck of a game. He should be back to WR this week, so it'll be a much different look for Mountain View. But, as always, Mountain View will have to protect the ball and limit Salpointe's damage on offense.
I think on defense one guy that has really surprised me is linebacker Taylor Powell. He has an even 100 tackles and he's just a sophomore. He leads the team in stops and went on an unofficial recruiting visit to UCLA earlier this season. I just didn't know much about him before the season, but he's been a real weapon. And yes, I think their linebacking group is that good. They have three really hard-hitting players and they use them well.
If I was the coach of I-Ridge, I'd probably want to take my chances with Marcos de Niza again rather than play Scottsdale Chaparral. Even though the Chaparral game would be in Southern Arizona, they have won seven games in a row and seem to be back to being one of the best teams in the state. They've beaten a few really good teams lately and made a QB change after a slow start to the season. I-Ridge already beat MDN in Tempe and I think they could do it again in Phoenix.
He sure has been great. It's been tough to know how good Braunreiter had been, because Mitch Fischer was getting all the carries for the Nighthawks the past few years. But, Braunreiter has been special at times this season, including last week. He's given the Nighthawks a big boost on offense and taken some pressure off of QB Tyler Williams. He'll have to keep playing well for I-Ridge to keep winning.
Tyler Williams has had a big passing game when he's needed to every time he's needed to except Salpointe. So, he's definitely capable of having another big game through the air this week. I do think he has to be very good in the postseason for I-Ridge to have a good chance at a state title. If he's able to make some passes and keep defenses honest, it will make things much easier for the Nighthawks offense.
I think it has a chance to be a fun one to watch. I also think there's a chance Salpointe could run away from Mountain View like it did last time. Mountain View has to give itself a chance and that starts with protecting the football and not committing penalties. The Mountain Lions can't make it any easier on Salpointe with those types of mistakes. On Salpointe's side, the Lancers just have to play smart football and not get too wrapped up in what's on the line.
Thank you all for the questions. It was fun chatting with you all once again. Let's do it again soon.