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Desert View, Marana collide with hopes of postseason

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High school football

Desert View, Marana collide with hopes of postseason

  • Desert View running back Alex Courtemanche is the state's leading rusher, with 1,763 yards and 25 touchdowns. But, more importantly, the senior has the Jaguars on the verge of their first postseason appearance since 1996.
    Curtis Dutiel/DVHS PhotographyDesert View running back Alex Courtemanche is the state's leading rusher, with 1,763 yards and 25 touchdowns. But, more importantly, the senior has the Jaguars on the verge of their first postseason appearance since 1996.

Desert View and Marana had two similarities at the end of the 2015 high school football season: Both programs were filled with a new-found sense of enthusiasm yet they were also left with a craving for more, as each fell short of their ultimate goal.

Now one of the two will inch closer to having that longing finally fulfilled on Friday night.

Desert View hosts Marana with a chance to pull within one win of its first state playoff appearance since 1996, while the visiting Tigers can lock up the 5A Sonoran regional championship and secure their first trip to the postseason in almost a decade.

The clash is just one of three matchups in Tucson this week, with significant playoff implications. No. 4 Ironwood Ridge host second-ranked Cienega in a big 5A Southern showdown while fourth-ranked Catalina Foothills travels to face No. 6 Salpointe Catholic with the 4A Kino regional title still up for grabs.

But, given their history, just about all eyes should be on Desert View and Marana.

Desert View had posted six straight losing seasons before this year and hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2000. Now the Jaguars – ranked 10th in 5A – have already matched their highest win total in 20 years but can top that with a victory on Friday night, in their final regular-season home game.

That won’t be an easy task, however, as No. 7 Marana comes in riding a six-game winning streak in which it has outscored opponents 255-97. Not bad for a program that hadn’t finished with a winning record since 2007, before last season.

In fact, Marana didn’t even win a game in 2011. Coincidentally, neither did Desert View.

Naturally, the coaches can be credited for changing the culture at both programs and both happened to come along the following year.

Desert View’s Robert Bonillas endured his share of struggles over his first three seasons, winning just three games in that span. But the Jaguars opened last year with three straight wins to set the foundation for this season’s success.

Like Bonillas, Marana coach Andy Litten didn’t get off to the best start. There was some promise after a 5-5 campaign in 2013 but the Tigers followed that with a disappointing 3-7 season. Last fall, conversely, Litten’s squad finished 6-4 and fell just one win short of qualifying for the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.

On top of what the coaches have done, the players deserve just as much credit, especially the seniors who have battled through the struggles of the last four seasons.

Desert View running back Alex Courtemanche is seeing his perseverance pay off as he leads the state with 1,763 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. The senior’s biggest game of the season – and likely most memorable – came four weeks ago when he rushed for 242 yards and three touchdowns to help the Jaguars knock off district rival Sunnyside for the first time since 1989.

After the game, Courtemanche acknowledged the win was just a step closer to getting to this point and having a chance to win a regional championship. If the Jaguars win on Friday night, they will also have to beat San Tan Valley Poston Butte next week to wrap up the regional title. And even if they lose, there is still a chance they could earn an at-large bid for the state playoffs.

For Marana, the desire to get the postseason might be even stronger since it came so close a year ago, when a 35-28 loss to Sabino on the final night of the season proved to be the difference.

Senior quarterback Connor Leavens has helped lead the vengeance tour this fall and is coming off one of the best games of his career. Just two days after his father’s sudden death, Leavens completed 17 of 19 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed six times for 23 yards to power the Tigers to a 52-14 win over San Tan Valley Poston Butte.

That gave Marana its sixth straight win since losing its first two games, at Ironwood Ridge and Cienega. After the season opening loss to the Nighthawks, Leavens made it clear what the objective was for this season, saying the goal was to play into November.

Now a win against Desert View on Friday would give the Tigers the 5A Sonoran championship and make that wish come true.

Friday's local games

  • Catalina (0-8) at Pusch Ridge Christian (5-3), 7 p.m.
  • Catalina Foothills (7-1) at Salpointe Catholic (6-2), 7 p.m.
  • Cholla (1-7) at San Tan Valley Poston Butte (3-5), 7 p.m.
  • Cienega (8-0) at Ironwood Ridge (7-1), 7 p.m.
  • Empire (3-5) at Tanque Verde (3-6), 7 p.m.
  • Marana (6-2) at Desert View (7-1), 7 p.m.
  • Nogales (3-5) at Canyon del Oro (5-3), 7 p.m.
  • Palo Verde (2-7) at Pueblo (5-3), 7 p.m.
  • Rio Rico (4-4) at Amphitheater (6-2), 7 p.m.
  • Sabino (7-1) at Douglas (4-4), 7 p.m.
  • Sahuaro (2-6) at Sunnyside (3-5), 7 p.m.
  • Santa Rita (1-7) at Sahuarita (2-6), 7 p.m.
  • Sierra Vista Buena (0-8) at Mountain View (6-2), 7 p.m.
  • Tucson (4-4) at Rincon/University (3-5), 7 p.m.
  • Walden Grove (3-5) at Flowing Wells (4-4), 7 p.m.

Last week's scores

  • Amphitheater 47, Palo Verde 0
  • Canyon del Oro 9, Walden Grove 7
  • Rio Rico 33, Catalina 19
  • Catalina Foothills 65, Cholla 22
  • Pueblo 48, Douglas 21
  • Empire 77, Santa Rita 6
  • Desert View 42, Flowing Wells 7
  • Ironwood Ridge 20, Tucson 17
  • Mountain View 35, Sahuaro 28
  • Pusch Ridge Christian 56, Tanque Verde 0
  • Sunnyside 25, Rincon/University 13
  • Sabino 49, Sahuarita 7
  • Salpointe Catholic 57, Nogales 0
  • Marana 52, San Tan Valley Poston Butte 14
  • Cienega 62, Sierra Vista Buena 17

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