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From a stacked region, to a surprise unbeaten: What to watch down the stretch

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High school football

From a stacked region, to a surprise unbeaten: What to watch down the stretch

  • Desert View senior running back breaks lose in a win against Sahuaro earlier this season. The unbeaten Jaguars play at Cholla on Friday, with a chance to improve to 6-0.
    Curtis Dutiel/DVHS PhotographyDesert View senior running back breaks lose in a win against Sahuaro earlier this season. The unbeaten Jaguars play at Cholla on Friday, with a chance to improve to 6-0.

Tucson High and Desert View provided two of the season’s biggest storylines this month, as each put an end to lengthy droughts against one of their rivals.

But now that September is coming to a close, it’s time to find out what the rest of the high school football season has in store.

Tucson High knocked off Salpointe Catholic for the first time since 1993 on Sept. 9 but the Badgers have since lost back-to-back games and are sitting at 3-3 in their bye week.

Meanwhile, unbeaten Desert View beat district rival Sunnyside last Friday for the first time since 1989 and just the second time in program history. How far can these Jaguars go?

Let’s take a look at that and plenty more, with five questions heading into the final five weeks of the seasons:

1. Who will win the loaded 5A Southern region?

Unbeaten Cienega rolled to a 66-34 win against Tucson High last week, proving it is the team to beat in town. But Jamarye Joiner and the Bobcats still have plenty of work to do, despite opening up at No. 2 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s first 5A power rankings on Tuesday.

Cienega (5-0) remains the favorite to win the 5A Southern title but it will be challenged by sixth-ranked Ironwood Ridge and No. 10 Mountain View. To make it even more difficult, the Bobcats face both of those teams on the road over the final two weeks of the season. They also have to get past rival Sahuaro next week after traveling to play a non-region game at Salpointe this week.

Watching this race unfold over the next month should be a lot of fun.

2. Can anyone in town stop Catalina Foothills?

Catalina Foothills has been flying high since a 35-0 loss to perennial power Scottsdale Saguaro, the heavy favorite to win the 4A state championship.

Rhett Rodriguez and the Falcons are on track to win out in the regular season, capture the 4A Kino region crown and perhaps get another shot at the Sabercats in the playoffs.

Foothills is ranked third in the conference and will open up region play on Friday night with a road test against Canyon del Oro. Can the Dorados pull off the upset? Then the Falcons host Nogales, perhaps the 10th-ranked Apaches can shake things up?

The only remaining challenge from there would come on Oct. 21, when Foothills travels to play rival Salpointe Catholic, the No. 8 team in the conference. Chances are pretty good the region champion is decided that night but anything is possible.

3. How far will unbeaten Desert View go?

Desert View is easily the biggest surprise of the season in Tucson. It is a perfect 5-0 coming off just its second win against district rival Sunnyside all-time.

Now it’s a question of how far Alex Courtemanche and the Jaguars can go, as they zone in on their first postseason appearance since 1996.

Desert View debuted at No. 5 in the 5A rankings and sits atop the 5A Sonoran region. It opens region play at Cholla on Friday night, with a chance to secure its first winning season since finishing 5-4 in 2000.

Things get much tougher from there, as the Jaguars travel to play a non-region game at Mountain View next week. Then Desert View hosts Flowing Wells and Marana before closing the regular season at San Tan Valley Poston Butte.

4. Is Sabino the team to beat in 3A?

Sabino has qualified for the state playoffs in 14 straight seasons and it’d be sure bet to assume that streak continues this year, with the Sabercats now in 3A.

Longtime coach Jay Campos announced over the summer that this would be his last season because he was becoming the school’s principal. How fitting would it be for Campos to go out by winning his first state title?

Sabino’s only remaining challenge in the regular season will come next Friday when it hosts Pusch Ridge Christian, last year’s Division IV state champion. From there, it’ll be a matter of waiting to see how the playoff brackets shape up and who the Sabercats will have to play.

Although Sabino is ranked third in 3A, behind Snowflake and Kayenta Monument Valley, it’s no question that they have one of the state’s best players in Drew Dixon and will be a contender for the state title.

5. Will Tucson have a team reach the 6A playoffs?

Fifteenth-ranked Tucson High would be the only local team to qualify for the 6A state playoffs if they began this week and it would be playing at No. 3 Gilbert Perry in the first round.

It appears as if Tucson High (3-3) is the only local playoff contender in 6A but there’s a chance the Badgers might even be left out.

If things play out as expected, Tucson and No. 12 Yuma Kofa will face in the final week of the regular season with the winner securing the 6A Southern title and earning an automatic postseason berth. Everything else will be based on overall ranking and that could leave Tucson out of the 6A playoffs all together.

The Badgers off Friday night and then host Sunnyside and Ironwood Ridge over the next two weeks, before traveling to play at Rincon/University. It’s almost as if the playoffs begin early for them.

Friday's local games

  • Empire (1-4) at Pusch Ridge Christian (3-2), 6 p.m.
  • Catalina Foothills (4-1) at Canyon del Oro (3-2), 7 p.m.
  • Cienega (5-0) at Salpointe Catholic (4-1), 7 p.m.
  • Desert View (5-0) at Cholla (1-4), 7 p.m.
  • Marana (3-2) at Flowing Wells (3-2), 7 p.m.
  • Mountain View (4-1) at Ironwood Ridge (4-1), 7 p.m.
  • Palo Verde (2-4) at Douglas (3-2), 7 p.m.
  • Pueblo (3-2) at Rio Rico (2-3), 7 p.m.
  • Sabino (4-1) at Catalina (0-5), 7 p.m.
  • Sahuarita (1-4) at Amphitheater (3-2), 7 p.m.
  • Sahuaro (1-4) at Sierra Vista Buena (0-5), 7 p.m.
  • Santa Rita (1-4) at Tanque Verde (2-4), 7 p.m.
  • Walden Grove (2-3) at Nogales (3-2), 7 p.m.

Last week's scores

  • Amphitheater 28, Walden Grove 7
  • Marana 44, Canyon del Oro 29
  • Sahuaro 48, Cholla 0
  • Flowing Wells 35, Deming (New Mexico) 0
  • Queen Creek 37, Ironwood Ridge 12
  • Rincon/University 33, Palo Verde 14
  • Catalina Foothills 31, Pusch Ridge Christian 20
  • Sabino 62, Santa Rita 0
  • Empire 41, Sahuarita 12
  • Salpointe Catholic 47, Pueblo 21
  • Mountain View 38, San Tan Valley Poston Butte 27
  • Desert View 42, Sunnyside 20
  • Tanque Verde 24, Catalina 6
  • Cienega 66, Tucson 34

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