With the high school football playoffs around the corner for Divisions I-V, I felt it was an appropriate time to take a look at some of the best teams in the state, and see what numbers jumped out. There are three stats per division (with the exception of Division-VI). Some of these numbers were staggering, and some trends could point to success in the postseason.
(Note: The statistics and calculations were based off of numbers provided by Maxpreps.com)
#8 Boulder Creek Jaguars: Boulder Creek has quite the 1-2 punch in the secondary with Ryan Parenteau and Blake Labno. The top two tacklers of the Jaguars defense have combined for 188 tackles and Parenteau has seven interceptions on the year. They take on Skyline to open up the playoffs.
#10 Sandra Day O’Connor Eagles: In the last two games, O’Connor cornerback Oscar Mills has six interceptions. Basha quarterback Ryan Kelley may need to keep his eye out for Mills in the opening round 7-10 matchup.
#12 Horizon Huskies: Horizon’s Dalton Sneed threw for 27 touchdowns and led the state with 3,240 passing yards in 2014. When I spoke to him early in the season, he said he thought he was a dual-threat quarterback. As we approach Horizon’s opening bout against five-seed Desert Ridge, it seems like he is right. Sneed led Horizon in rushing with 919 yards and 13 touchdowns. If that isn’t dual-threat, I don’t know what is.
#2 Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks: Ironwood Ridge is known for a tenacious defense. They have given up an average of just under 15 points. #15 seed Sunnyside will have to focus on Austin Goddard. The 5’11”, 230 lb senior has 12 tackles for loss, and three sacks. At 39 tackles, nearly half of them have come in the backfield for Goddard.
#7 Westwood Warriors: The Chaparral Firebirds will have to key in on Warriors’ running back Ethan Johnson. The junior averages 185 rushing yards a game, has 23 rushing touchdowns, and has scored in nine of ten games, and has had eight multi-touchdown games.
#8 Paradise Valley Trojans: A few weeks ago, our Eric Sorenson profiled the quarterback-receiver duo of Daniel Bridge-Gadd and Jacob Brown. The two juniors have hooked up for 19 touchdowns this year. No doubt the offense is potent, but the defense has been unreal lately. Since PV lost to Horizon, 49-45, the Trojans have given up an average of six points per game in their last six games while scoring an average of 46 points per game. Ninth-seeded Sahuaro will have to derail the offense and the defense to advance to the second round.
#1 Saguaro Sabercats: With plenty of future college talent, the Sabercats have been one of the best teams in the entire state of Arizona have dominated Division-III. The offense has received some well-deserved attention throughout the year as they have averaged nearly 53 points per game, but the defense has kept pace. Through Saguaro’s first nine games, they gave up an average of eight points a game. Eight! The Sabercats defense looked somewhat human against Marcos de Niza in the final game of the regular season, giving up 35 points, but won very comfortably 61-35.
#7 Peoria Panthers: Even at 5’4”, running back Akeem Rutledge has been huge for the 9-1 Panthers. Rutledge opened the season with five total touchdown in Peoria’s Week 1 win against Agua Fria and hasn’t looked back. Rutledge has scored 23 rushing touchdowns and has rushed for a touchdown in each regular season game this season. #10 Moon Valley will have to slow down Rutledge if they want to advance.
#14 Higley Knights: The Knights made headlines when they combined for 180 points in their 95-75 win over Apache Junction. Higley knows how to score points. They average nearly 45 points per game in 2014. It has been feast or famine for Higley this year though. In wins, they put up 57 points per game, but they only average 16 points per game in losses.
#1 Seton Catholic Sentinels: The top seed in Division IV has been dominant, going 10-0 in the regular season. They have conceivably gotten better as the year has progressed. They have outscored their opponents 233-0 in their last four games.
#3 River Valley Dust Devils:
The Dust Devils top rusher is Brandon Long, who has left his opponents in the dust (I am so sorry for that pun). Long averages nearly 11 yards per carry and has 15 touchdowns in his last five games. River Valley’s only loss came to Yuma Catholic, and Long was able to put up 204 yards and two scores.
#4 Snowflake Lobos: The Lobos have quite the 1-2 punch for the ground game. Both Drew Schneider and Trevor McCray have rushed for 1,000 yards and have combined for 27 touchdowns. #13 Combs will have their hands full with not one, but two established runners in their opening round matchup.
#1 Yuma Catholic Shamrocks: The Shamrocks are having a historic year. Not only are they 10-0, but tight end Matt Pistone and wide receiver Donovan Rooks have both been offered by Division-I colleges, the first time that has happened in Yuma in nearly 25 years. Pistone has verbally committed Oregon State and Rooks has been speaking with schools about his football future. The duo has combined for 27 touchdowns and 1,509 receiving yards.
#4 Northwest Christian Crusaders: The Northwest Christian defense has six players with at least four tackles for loss. On the year, the Crusaders have given up 130 points, with nearly half of those being surrendered to Yuma Catholic, who scored 63 points.
#7 Joy Christian Eagles: Expect a heavy amount of running against the Eagles. Joy Christian has three rushers with at least six touchdowns on the year. #10 San Tan Foothills better be ready for a potent ground game.
Division VI is currently in it’s semifinals so there are stats and trends for all four of the remaining teams.
#1 Bagdad Sultans: Bagdad opened the year by scoring 38 points. That was their season low. They have eclipsed the 60-point mark seven times this year, while giving up an average of 15 points per game.
#2 Mogollon Mustangs: The Mogollon rushing attack has 34 touchdowns on the year. They have also rushed for over 200 yards in every game so far this year, including 416 yards against Valley Union.
#3 Pima Roughriders: Pima’s only loss came Week 1 against Bagdad, where they scored 32 points. Since then, they have won eight straight games and have scored at least 48 points per game.
#4 Gilbert Christian Knights: In eight-man football, there is plenty of chances for big plays. Some of the top teams love to air out the football in Division VI. Gilbert Christian has been able to take advantage of those pass-heavy systems…on defense. The Knights have 21 interceptions on the year, including eight by Tanner Conover and six by Logan Pinkerton.