Blogs / Features
Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com email@example.com
First full week of football offers array of openersAug 21, 2012
A potential playoff preview with Hamilton vs. Mountain Pointe in Division I. A rivalry game pitting Tempe's oldest schools -- Tempe High- McClintock -- programs trying to regain a semblance of past glory.
Just a quick sampling of games for fans to feast on Thursday, Friday or Saturday around the state. All games are on Friday Aug. 24 unless noted. Here's a brief look at nine games featuring teams from the East Valley and southern Arizona for the first full week of 2012:
TEMPE AT MCCLINTOCK (Thursday Aug. 23): Neither program has set the world on fire in recent years. Tempe was 1-9 last year and McClintock 3-7. Second-year McClintock coach Matt Lewis is more optimistic this season with a few returining skill players and younger players who will get a chance to play in his system for two or three years. McClintock pounded Tempe, 49-14, last year. McClintock is led by quarterback Xavier Gomez, who rolled up a little over 1,600 yards rushing and passing. Tempe, with former McClintock standout Brian Walker at the helm, is eyeing improvement . Walker has former Tempe High coach and Buffalo alum Tim McBurney switching from offensive coordinator to defensive coordinator to get that unit a bit more testy.
CIENEGA AT SABINO (Thursday Aug. 23): Cienega's bid at the Division II state title fell short to Chaparral last year. Coach Nemer Hassey has just a handful of starters back, but a pretty solid JV group to fill the holes. Cienega may be the underdog this year against Sabino, a Division III title contender last year. Cienega edged Sabino, 17-16, last year, but Sabino enters the opener the more experienced club this time around.
HAMILTON AT MOUNTAIN POINTE: Sometimes the best time to match up against Hamilton is early in the season and in this case the opener. This may not be that year. The Huskies aren't used to coming off a loss to start a new season so they'll be hungry to get back on track. They are strong up front on offense and are determined to make amends for a defensive effort that yielded 45 poiints to Desert Vista nine monthas ago. Mountain Pointe played Hamilton tough in the opener last year (17-7 loss) and would like to do the same or better this time around in front of its home crowd. This will be a hearty test for Hamilton before it heads across the ocean for a contest in Ireland.
WESTVIEW AT RED MOUNTAIN: Westview is arguably the best westside program in Division I and provides a good test (and vice-versa) for Red Mountain, which has plans for a bigger and better year than its quarterfinal finish of last year. Wesview lost three games last year -- all tight games to Red Mountain, Brophy and Chandler. Westview brings standout running back Seivion Morris to lead the Knights offense while Red Mountain counters with quarterback Mason Thorman, one of the best in the East Valley if not the entire Valley.
DOBSON AT WESTWOOD: Playoffs used to be common for these Mesa schools in the 1980s and 1990s. The new millennium has seen hard times hit the campuses to the points .500 records would be welcome. Enter new head coaches for both. Makeover guru George De La Torre, a former longtime assistant at Westwood is guiding Dobson. Young ,energetic Spencer Stowers is piloting Westwood. The programs would like to win more than they lose sooner than later, but this year progress likely won't be measured in victories.
CANYON DEL ORO AT IRONWOOD RIDGE: These are perennial playoff contenders. Ironwood Ridge opened last season with a 28-7 triumph over CDO on the Dorados field. Canyon del Oro has been to championship games as recently as 2010 and posted a 7-4 mark in a huge retooling year and essentially moved up a division. Ironwood Ridge fell just short last year of a title-game appearance and finished 10-3. Ironwood Ridge returns talented quarterback Tyler Williams, a dual threat who threw for more than 1,000 yards last year and may be counted on for more running with the graduation of Mitch Fischer. Williams will have an experienced wide out to throw to in Jake Matthews.
FOUNTAIN HILLS AT SETON CATHOLIC: A solid test for both schools out of the gate. Seton wasn't challenged often last season in reaching the Division IV semifinals and it showed some by the time Blue Ridge finished with them. Seton managed a 20-13 victory over Fountain Hills last year to start the ball rolling on an unbeaten regular season. Seton returns more than half its starters on both sides of the ball, including prolific passing quarterback Ryan Bresnahan. Bresnahan has one of his top targets back in Matt Haggarty. The Sentinels vow to be better defensing the run. Fountain Hills qualified for the D-IV playoffs as well, but bowed out in a tough opening round loss. The Falcons have seasoned quarterback Justin Steuber back, much of its offensive line a a two-way standout in defensive back-running back Andrew Capirchio.
GILBERT AT DESERT RIDGE: Of the several new coaches in the East Valley this season, the toughest draw may go to Gilbert's new boss, Leland Rodgers. Desert Ridge, a semifinalist the last two seasons and runner-up in 2010, lost a slew of big-time players largely responsible for their prowess in 2010 and 2011. Coach Jeremy Hathcock will rely on a few qualifty holdovers and what figures to be a potent arsenal of skill players replacing the likes of Jordan Becerra, Joey Counts, Parker Rasmussen and several others.
YUMA CATHOLIC VS. NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN AT NAU (Saturday Aug. 25 -- 7:30 p.m.): These schools are set to meet for the sixth time since 2009 with a a pair of bookend meetings the last two culminatiing in state title-game matchups (2A in 2010 and Division V) in 2011). They split htos title-game battles. Yuma Catholic , the defending champs, will be a little short on game-tested players this time and have a new quarterback for the first time in three years. The Shamrocks top returning skill player is Kody Hazlett. They will be in the hunt for all the marbles given their tradition the last five years. NWC lost the state's all-time leading rusher -- Casey Jahn -- to graduation. A fairly prolific runner sharing the backfield last year with Jahn is back, senior Hunter McShanag. McShanag didn't amass 2,000 yards-plus like Jahn, but chimed in with a respectable 870 yards nine touchdowns. The Crusaders also have a two-way standout in Trevor Osborne at wide out and linebacker.