Another exciting season is just about in the books, and now it's time for the state championship games. We'll give you our preps pick'em previews later this week, but let's break down the matchups and learn about the players in the championship games.
Division I: Hamilton (13-0) vs. Desert Vista (12-1)
Hamilton Key Players: QB Blake Kemp (Sr.) 2,324 yards, 20 TDs; WR Kendyl Taylor (Sr.) 893 rec. yards, 520 rushing TDs, 17 total TDs; LB Santana Sterling (So.) 92 tackles (25 solo); DL Jaxon Hood (Sr.) 12.5 sacks
Desert Vista Key Players: QB Hunter Rodriguez (Sr.) 1,1812 yards, 15 TDs; RB Dominic Kereluk (Sr.) 828 yards, 12 TDs; LB Mike Arredondo (Sr.) 17 rushing TDs, 148 tackles (48 solo); DL Melvin Lorenzo (Jr.) 7.0 sacks
Hamilton and Desert Vista have faced off once before, and local media suggested it was going to be the end of the Huskies' impressive winning streak. You heard it here first, one local writer mused. The streak ends tonight. Of course, that's not quite how it went down. Hamilton won, 35-10, and now holds the nation's longest active winning streak at 53 victories. Since then, all Desert Vista has done is proven it's worthy of a rematch. The Thunder have scored 42 points or more in each of their three playoff wins and have been strong defensively as well (despite giving up 32 points last week against Basha). Meanwhile, the Huskies keep rolling — they've won by less than double digits just once all year.
Division 2: Chaparral (13-1) vs. Cienega (13-0)
Chaparral Key Players: QB Connor Brewer (Sr.) 2,844 yards, 41 TDs; WR Davonte' Neal (Sr.) 1,097 rushing yards, 1,006 receiving yards, 27 total TDs; LB Cody Ippolito (Sr.) 109 tackles (75 solo); DL Dylan Cozens (Sr.) 7.5 sacks
Cienega Key Players: QB Michael Archie (Sr.) 1,650 yards, RB Manny Vera (Sr.) 2,006 rushing yards, 31 TDs; LB Daniel Gonzales (Sr.) 132 tackles (28 solo); DL Kevin Thompson (Sr.) 9.0 sacks
After a heart-stopping semifinal round (the two teams won their games by a combined four points) it's time to take the field for the D-II title game. Chaparral, ranked No. 37 in the POWERADE FAB 50, has made its mark with stellar offensive play, but offensive superstar Davonte' Neal made a defensive play to seal the win last week when he intercepted a pass in the end zone with less than a minute to play to beat Centennial. Cienega survived a close game against Ironwood Ridge to advance to the finals. Chaparral's only loss came at the hands of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), a team currently ranked No. 7 in the POWERADE FAB 50. Cienega has won its last two playoff games by one and three points, respectively.
Division III: Saguaro (11-2) vs. Cactus (11-1)
Saguaro Key Players: QB Luke Rubenzer (So.) 2,383 yards, 29 TDs; RB D.J. Foster (Sr.) 2,837 yards, 53 TDs
Cactus Key Players: QB Michael Putko (Sr.) 1,509 yards, 14 TDs, 1,169 rushing yards, 23 TD; RB Josh Aguirre (Sr.) 1,026 yards, 8 TDs; LB Guy Williams (Sr.) 90 tackles (32 solo); DL Seth Dealejandro (Sr.) 9.0 sacks
It's a telling omission. The Saguaro Sabercats homepage lists information for fans to travel by bus to the state title game, information on how to purchase season photos and the results of every game this season — every game, that is, except the last one. Oct. 28, against Chaparral, is conspicuously absent. That game, of course, is the one in which Sabercats coach John Sanders pulled his starters to prep for the postseason. We'll fill in the rest since they didn't — Chaparral rolled, 65-0. There was talk that the locker room might be divided. Instead of steamrolling to a top seed, Saguaro entered the playoffs as a No. 5 seed. But talent wins out — it usually does — and now here are the Sabercats, led by the state's most dominant player (D.J. Foster) and a sophomore QB who's put up stellar numbers. Cactus, steady all season long, lost only once — to Saguaro, in a 62-24 loss. Expect this one to be at least a little closer.
Division IV: Blue Ridge (13-0) vs. Show Low (11-3)
Blue Ridge Key Players: QB Skyler Hill (Jr.) 1,667 yards, 16 TDs; RB Danny Groebner (Sr.) 1,199 yards, 19 TDs; DL Walker Lee (So.) 75 tackles (22 solo)
Show Low Key Players: QB Zach Winn (Jr.) 1,368, 14 TDs; WR Josh Weeks (Sr.) 1,058 rushing yards, 540 receiving yards, 466 passing yards, 23 total TDs; DL Justin Jackson (Jr.) 120 tackles (24 solo)
They're baaaaaaack. It's our two favorite teams in Division IV, a rivalry that never ceases to provide fireworks. Blue Ridge has had the upper hand of late, but Show Low took last year's title game. In the one matchup this season, Blue Ridge squeaked out a 10-9 victory. With all the chips on the table yet again, can Show Low win when it counts yet again? That'll be the big question in this one.
Division V: Northwest Christian (14-0) vs. Yuma Catholic (12-1)
Northwest Christian Key Players: QB Orbi Gonzales (Sr.) 1,297 yards, 14 TDs; RB Casey Jahn (Sr.) 2,279 yards, 33 TDs; DB Trevor Osborne (Sr.) 130 tackles (32 solo), 7 INTs; DL Will Gades (So.) 5.0 sacks
Yuma Catholic Key Players: QB Tommy Pistone (Sr.) 3,374 yards, 39 TDs; RB Kody Hazlett (Jr.) 1,154 yards, 20 TDs; WR Everett McKinney (Sr.) 1,180 yards, 14 TDs; LB Ryan Gill (Sr.) 182 tackles (118 solo); DL Peter Hurtado (So.) 13.0 sacks
When these two teams met up in Week 1, did anyone expect they'd be facing off again for the Division V state title? Probably not. And that's what makes this matchup all the more compelling. After a full slate of games, there's very little we can ultimately take away from that opening contest — a 13-6 win by Northwest Christian — but it does provide some context for the rematch. There's not a team in the state that has been successful in slowing down Casey Jahn, which is why he's the state's all-time rushing leader. But the Shamrocks' Tommy Pistone has been one of the more underrated players in the state this year, and his ability to man a stellar passing attack is what will keep Yuma Catholc competititve.