2020 Friday Night Rewind: Final Four Weekend

The football weather has officially arrived (finally) in early December and AZHS’s Final Four weekend hasn’t disappointed with a host of schools moving on in their respective brackets.

Here’s my latest Friday Night Rewind.

Pure Greatness

To some, it wasn’t supposed to be this close.

Sure, host Boulder Creek was the 6A one-seed but nearly everyone I spoke with this week believed Highland was too talented, too versatile and too battle-tested not to advance to the championship game next weekend at Desert Vista High School.

In a game which featured unbelievable individual performances from both teams’ star players, a handful of long, between-the-tackles drives and one total punt (ONE PUNT!!) – Highland held on for a 35-28 victory on an extremely chilly night in Anthem.

The 7-3 Hawks are moving on to play Chaparral for an opportunity to hoist their first gold ball, while the Jaguars’ season ends but won’t ever be forgotten.

BC’s offense frequently bullied Highland’s top-notch defense behind all-world running back Jacob Cisneros and fearless quarterback Bear Milacek. Both seniors played like warriors consistently pounding the interior of the Hawks’ defense.

“It was hard to gauge how good Boulder Creek was because their schedule wasn’t very good,” Highland head coach Brock Farrel said to Sports360AZ.com moments after the emotional win. “They were doing this to everybody….I was hoping that our defense would shut them down. You hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We were prepared to not punt and score every time if we had to.”

That’s exactly what the Hawks did.

Boulder Creek finishes their magical season 8-2 after their final drive in closing seconds stalled out at the Highland two-yard line.

Mad Max

While Arizona is considered a “quarterback state,” there’s also a pretty nice collection of running backs here, as well.

Cisneros picked up where he left off all season – rushing for two touchdowns and returning a second half kickoff for a score, while Highland’s Max Davis was brilliant, as well.

Davis, who entered the contest with 24 total touchdowns and over 1500 total yards in nine games, was again sensational against gritty Boulder Creek rushing for 159 yards and saved his best for last taking an option pitch from junior quarterback Gage Dayley (three touchdown passes) and sprinting into the end zone to break a 28-28 tie with 3:38 to play.

The go-ahead score was set up mostly by Davis who ripped off a handful of chunk runs on the drive with Highland’s season resting in the balance.

“I could tell after the first play after he ripped off like a nine-yard run I said, ‘We need to feed him,'” Farrel explained of his star senior. “He’s what got us here. He’s going to take us to the promised land.”

Mission accomplished. 

Three and Out

Three scores which caught my attention from semi-final action around the state.

1. Cactus coasts past 4A top-seed Casa Grande 35-13.

The Cobras are a much different team than the one that opened the season with a 48-7 loss to Sunrise Mountain. Joseph Ortiz’s team is now riding a seven-game win streak and hasn’t allowed more than 19 points in any game since Week One.

The 2019 playoff rematch next weekend against defending 4A champion Mesquite is setting up to be encore classic after 2019’s 28-27 nail biter.

2. Ironwood rolls Notre Dame Prep 41-22. 

Everyone knows San Diego State quarterback commit Will Haskell is the truth but six-seeded IHS has offensive balance with senior running back Elijah Sanders.

Top-seed Sunrise Mountain will get a second chance at the 8-2 Eagles. Ironwood took out the Mustangs 20-11 back on October 30th. 

3. Chaparral thumps O’Connor 31-14.

Road Warriors.

The Firebirds have been regulars in “Three and Out” so why stop now? I told you they were a dangerous seven-seed and are brimming with confidence stomping Queen Creek and SDO in back-to-back weeks.

Chap Town jumped out on the Eagles 21-0 in the first half and never looked back. Another fast start with be an absolute must against previously mentioned Highland in the 6A ‘ship next Saturday at Desert Vista High School.