Arizona high school football rewind: First round of playoffs –

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Fifth-seed Mesa Desert Ridge unleashed the physical, punishing defense that was missing much of the season just in time for the playoffs and it resulted in a 28-17 victory over No. 12-seed Phoenix Horizon (7-4) in the Division I first round. Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock changed up personnel and switched schemes after his team gave up 37 points in a nine-point win against 3-7 Mesa Mountain View. It forced Phoenix Horizon quarterback Dalton Sneed out of his comfort zone, and Sneed was unable to escape the relentless pressure after giving his team an early 7-0 lead with a 69-yard scoring strike. Hathcock criticized his offensive line play, but it was good enough for Taren Morrison to run for three touchdowns and for Justin Irby to add the dagger, a 48-yard scoring run with less than five minutes to play, giving Desert Ridge (10-1) a two-possession lead.

GAME STORY: Mesa Desert Ridge advances in Division I, gets rematch with Brophy Prep


Phoenix Sunnyslope and Paradise Valley are legit. Sunnyslope finally is taken seriously as a Division II contender after an impressive 42-7 win over defending state champion Tucson Salpointe Catholic. Granted, Salpointe is not nearly the same team it was a year ago when it ran the table in dominant fashion. But this was the first signature win in the Damon Pieri coaching era. Sunnyslope’s regular-season schedule the past two years was criticized with no heavyweight on it. But give credit to Pieri and his players for rising to the occasion, showing it is not just the Tim Fryson show. Paradise Valley, as well, took a big step under new coach Greg Davis with a 38-24 win over Tucson Sahuaro. Both teams face their biggest challenges in the next round with Sunnyslope (11-0) playing at third-seed Peoria Centennial and Paradise Valley (10-1) at top-seed Peoria Liberty in the quarterfinals. But they’ve certainly earned the respect of those teams.

GAME STORY: Sunnyslope ends Tucson Salpointe’s reign in Division II


Tucson Sunnyside (7-4), a 15 seed in Division II, wasn’t even on the Cinderella radar, until it beat second-seed Oro Valley Ironwood (9-2) with a dominating 35-14 win. Just three seasons ago, Ironwood Ridge captured the Division II state championship. But it was one-and-done the last two years. This was the shocker with such a high seed and as well prepared as coach Matt Johnson has his teams. Sunnyside took advantage of Ironwood Ridge being without mobile quarterback Michael Franzese (ankle injury), and got three touchdown passes and a scoring run from Isaiah Salazar. It was Sunnyside’s first playoff win since 2009.


Mesa Skyline took a huge step to prominence under third-year coach Angelo Paffumi, winning its first-round Division I game 28-12 at No.8-seed Anthem Boulder Creek. It now has to face top-seed Chandler Hamilton, but the building blocks are in place. This is the Coyotes’ best season since going 8-4-1 in 2008. They might not win pretty but they win with swarming defense and a power-run offense with Dylon Gillette and Amarii Keyes both over 1,000 yards.

GAME STORY: Mesa Skyline continues winning, beats Anthem Boulder Creek


Glendale Cactus is an 11 seed in the Division III playoffs but it avenged its regular-season 49-40 loss to Peoria Sunrise Mountain without head coach Larry Fetkenhier, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 51-38 victory, behind the play of quarterback Preston Guerra and running back Chad Jennings. It was the first time Fetkenhier, out after having surgery for cancer, missed a game in his 30 years leading Cactus. Brian Belles, who has been Fetkenhier’s defensive coordinator for 15 years, took over the leadership role. Fetkenhier could be back for the next round against Tempe, Belles said.


-White Mountains schools Show Low and Lakeside Blue Ridge, in a rare sight, lost first-round Division IV games. Show Low fell to Goodyear Estrella Foothills 19-13, and Blue Ridge lost to second-seed Sahuarita 42-0.

-Calvin Jenkins completed 10 of 12 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns for 11-0 Sahuarita. He also ran four times for 57 yards and a score, and Allyn Williams caught four passes for 124 yards and three TDs.

-Chandler quarterback Bryce Perkins passed for 257 yards and four touchdowns, and Chase Lucas ran for two TDs in a 54-14 Division I playoff win over 3-8 Mesa Red Mountain.

-Scottsdale Chaparral’s defense stepped up big, derailing both the pass and the run in a 30-0 Division II playoff win at Mesa Westwood. Coupled by Ironwood Ridge’s loss, Chaparral gets a home field in the quarterfinals against No.15 Sunnyside.

-Tempe Marcos de Niza, fueled by the 35 points is scored against Division III No.1 Scottsdale Saguaro in the regular-season finale, routed Glendale Deer Valley 42-7 in a first-round Division II game, as sophomore quarterback Nazareth Greer passed for four touchdowns and ran for two more.

-Cade Knox, making his return after missing the last two regular-season games with a broken non-throwing hand, passed for 308 yards and three TDs in a 45-0 Division I first-round rout of Gilbert Perry. Isaiah Oliver, the school’s all-time leading receiver, caught eight passes for 212 yards and two TDs.

-Phoenix Pinnacle gave up 40 points to Gilbert Highland, but still won by four touchdowns with senior quarterback Brian Lewerke leading the offensive explosion 69-40 in the Division I first-round game that sets up a meeting against defending state champion Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

-Senior running back Paul Lucas went off for more than 200 rushing yards in a 31-21 Division I first-round win over Avondale Westview.

-Chandler Basha needed 342 yards and two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Ryan Kelley to escape 10-seed Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 38-34 in the Division I first round.

-Scottsdale Saguaro, despite losing running back Kam’ron Johnson with a knee injury, got another great all-around game from senior Christian Kirk to beat visiting and No.16-seed Tucson Sabino 55-14 in the Division III first round. Kirk scored five touchdowns, including an interception he returned 85 yards, and became the state record-holder for all-time receiving yardage for 11-man football with 3,739 yards.

-Phoenix Moon Valley (10-1) won its first playoff game in 10 years when it captured the state title, beating Peoria 40-32 in Division III.

-Top-ranked Division II Peoria Centennial jumped out to a 42-0 halftime lead and coasted to a 56-7 first-round win against Lake Havasu.

-Sparked by the all-around play of Terrence Johnson, Vail Cienega (10-1) won its 10th consecutive game, holding off Poston Butte 32-6 in a Division II first-round game. Johnson had an interception and made big plays catching and running the ball.

-Thatcher advanced to the Division V quarterfinals with a 46-6 win over Queen Creek American Leadership, as Heath Motes ran for 105 yards and two TDs and passed for 120 yards and two more scores. Jeff Shumway caught two TD passes and Austin Peeler intercepted two passes.