It’s the final week of the 2019 season. The intensity rises as teams make one last case for where they should sit in their conference tournaments. Luring in the shadows of these final games is a list of some of the best rivalry games in the state, including a couple right here on the west side.
Game of the Week: Peoria @ Cactus
It’s one of the biggest rivalries in the state and one of the oldest in the West Valley. Over the past five years, this meeting has been between two of the best in the 4A Conference with the teams only winning by seven or fewer points in four of the past six games.
This year seems no different. Cactus has risen to seventh in the 4A Conference after a huge victory in Flagstaff at Coconino to boost their record to 7-2. Peoria has maintained a healthy 8-1 record to keep them at number nine in the 4A Conference.
— Cobra Football (@CHSCobraFB) October 25, 2019
Cactus has two losses in 2019. Once to Open Division Playoff contender, Salpointe Catholic, and West Valley Region champ, Desert Edge. Besides that, the Cobras have dominated. In their sevens wins, Cactus has outscored opponents by 30 points behind an explosive backfield of seniors Conner Cordts and Anthony Flores. The duo has combined for 272 carries totaling over 1,500 rush yards and 21 rush touchdowns. Nate Quinones has been the staple of the Cobra defense racking up over 80 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and four interceptions.
Peoria won a rivalry match for the first time in four years with a 37-31 victory in 2018. The Panthers’ lone loss was to Desert Edge. Four different Panthers have multiple interceptions in 2019 and Peoria has 11 fumbles. Senior, Gabriel Ocampo leads the team accumulating 13 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Alaa Barakat has been another defensive star totaling up 67 tackles and seven more TFLs. Also, be on the lookout for another dual running back attack from the Panthers with Cameron Mack and Micho Cordero combing for over 1,400 rushing yards this year.
— Devon Henry (@devonhenry77) October 27, 2018
After both being juniors in the rivalry last year, both Kyle Samford and Cordts will battle against each other in potentially their final Cactus-Peoria game at the QB spot. After losing the first two meetings in 1978 and 1979, the Cobras now own the all-time record at 18-14-1 and a victory could earn one team the right to host two 4A Tournament games.
A Chance to Shake Things Up
The Pac 12 is one of the most cannibalistic conferences in NCAA football. Similarly, the Desert Valley Region in the 6A Conference is cannibalistic in their own right. Liberty was a team making a case for the right to be in the inaugural Open Division Playoff, until region opponent, Mountain Ridge, swiped that from them in double overtime. Last week, Chaparral nearly ruined Pinnacle’s chances at being in the Open Eight, and now both of those teams are on the bubble of the Eight.
— LibertyLionsFootball (@LibertyFBLions) October 26, 2019
Is it Liberty’s time to mix up the Open Eight? Chaparral isn’t in the top eight teams ranked by the AIA, but a victory against Liberty on Friday night could propel them into a spot. A loss to Liberty would end any chance Chaparral might get at being one of the schools selected in the historic playoff. The Lions have a chance to play spoiler.
Liberty has been strong defensively. Sophomore, Jax Stam, leads the team with 57 tackles while also collecting two sacks this season. Helping in the secondary, Shane Pitts has picked off two INTs and caused three fumbles. The defense held steady through three quarters but needed more help from the run game against a tough Pioneer defense. The Lions are coming off a win at Sandra Day O’Connor where the offense scored 21 points in the first quarter alone.
— Picture Lady Photography LLC (@ThePicture_Lady) October 27, 2019
The Lions and Firebirds have met for the past four years in a row in region play with Liberty owning the all-time record of 3-1. The Lions have typically dominated this meeting since 2016, winning by an average of 36 points, including a 50-point win just two seasons ago. Chaparral’s Ohio State-bound QB, Jack Miller, played in the 50-point pounding, but not last year’s 51-21 loss. The Lions have a chance to make it four in a row but will face to toughest Firebird team they’ve ever seen.
A Rivalry to End the Season
The Greenway Demons are Skyline Region champions for the second year in a row. GHS is a lock into the 4A Tournament with the title and sits twelfth in the rankings. To wrap up the 2019 season, the young offense travels to their annual rivalry against the Moon Valley Rockets.
— Moon Valley Football (@MVRocketsFB) October 22, 2019
Moon Valley has had a tough go around but is coming off their second victory of the year against St. Mary’s in a 34-20 win. They enter the rivalry match following a loss in last year’s battle. The Rockets last won in a thrilling 43-42 bout in 2017. MVHS has been led offensively by sophomore, Micah Southwick, who has accumulated over 1,000 passing yards in 2019. Senior, Brayden Crotz who has caught seven TDs, has been a steady part of this offense, totaling 687 yards offensively.
The Demons young roster has brought them to another successful season. The Demons are nearly flawless, only losing to Buckeye Union by a single point. Their region clinching win last week against Tempe was just as stressful, winning by a score 13-12. Junior running back, Christian Johnson, pushed the Demons forward with a game-leading 178 total yards. Seniors Heston Wahner and Nick Deaver showed up on defense two totaling eight tackles and two TFLs each.
Friday Night we celebrated our Seniors and their Families prior to the last regular season game. (📸 Mr Naujokaitis) pic.twitter.com/2PrXAvpX9X
— Greenway Football (@Greenway_FB) October 29, 2019
The rivalry continues as Greenway looks for their second straight rivalry win after the Rockets won four in a row.
Tournament Spots and Revenge
6A Tournament implications hang in the balance as the Valley Vista Monsson look to invade Westview for the chance to hopefully claim a spot in the tournament. With three to four teams being taken out of the conference tournaments to enter the Open Division Playoff, that gives an opportunity to other teams to step into a postseason spot.
The Monsoon sit at 18th in the conference, but once three teams are removed to play in the Open Division Playoff, that would place Valley Vista at fifteenth, one spot to the good. A 6-3 season for the Monsoon has been led in part by junior quarterback, Burton Delay IV. The QB has tossed over 1,600 yards in 2019, connecting most often with fellow junior, Liam Kelleher 35 times for over 500 yards. If the Monsoon wants a tourney spot, they’ll likely have to take down a Westview team hungry to take the rage from their loss last week onto Valley Vista to close the season.
Our football squad showed out to support our band at their festival today! Valley Vista challenges other squads to do the same! #footballsupportsband @MonsoonFootball @VVHS_MONSOON @monsoonathetics @DysartUSD @DeanAzdean06 @RsmithYWV @KevinMcCabeFSAZ pic.twitter.com/aoc5JgVube
— Brad Larremore (@blarrem_22) October 27, 2019
The Knights snapped a 49-game region winning streak last week against La Joya Community. Now Westview is 24 in the 6A rankings, putting them at least five spots out of a tournament spot. Junior, Nico Vasko, has sent missiles all year, collecting 21 TDs. This offense will be raiding from the skies, likely to Isac Hall, who is only 74 yards from a 1,000-yard receiving season. The only chance for Westview to make another tournament appearance is a victory against Valley Vista, and likely some help from other teams ahead of them losing.