Last week I went 20-5 in my Top 25 picks. I'm now 89-35 overall.
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25) #8 Desert Vista at Dobson
Last year a 4-0 Dobson was just a couple of plays away from knocking off Desert Vista, but couldn't get the job done and finished the season 1-5. This year, with a new coach, they're a surprising 3-1 with a chance to exact revenge and put a stamp on the progress they've made. Desert Vista was hoping to compete for a title, but barely escaped an offensively challenged Brophy team last week. The Thunder need a statement win here to be taken seriously headed into region play.
24) (6A) Valley Vista at (5A) Willow Canyon
There was a time in this series when Willow Canyon was on a serious winning streak. That ended in 2011, and Valley Vista has come out on top every year since. Both teams are averaging around 20 points per game, so I'll say the first team to 21 wins.
23a) Thunderbird at Youngker
Tony Cluff and Youngker are my biggest surprise of the year so far, a team that I thought would be 1-4 at this point is a field goal away from being 4-1. Thunderbird is progressing after their early shutout loss to Moon Valley, and has scored 114 points in the last 3 games.
23b) #14 Moon Valley at Cactus Shadows
I was high on Cactus Shadows going into the season, and even higher on them when they beat Seton Catholic, but since then, they've struggled to contain both Prescott and Cactus defensively- and they'll need to get things figured out if they hope to slow down Moon Valley's Isaiah Southwick, who threw 3 TDs and ran for another last week.
22) #13 Flagstaff at Bradshaw Mountain
What am I supposed to make of Flagstaff's 4-0 start? Are they for real? I suppose we'll find out Friday, when they take on a Bradshaw Mountain team that as blown them out four years in a row, but has had their own struggles this season. Bradshaw Mountain has lost all four of their contests, only mustering 17 points per game.
21) #15 North at #10 Horizon
Since the arrival of Bernie Busken, North has taken to scheduling mostly Phoenix Union teams. Last year their only contest outside of PUHSD was against Horizon- a game they lost 35-7. This year North finds themselves at 3-1 heading into the matchup with the Huskies, and has a win over a tough Fairfax team. Can they go on the road and score an upset? It might be tough given Horizon's 65/35 run/pass ratio. North has to force Horizon to throw- that's where they struggle.
20) Shadow Mountain at #11 Greenway
Where he heck did Greenway come from? The team that used to win playoff games with regularity, but hasn't even made it to a postseason since 2010, is off to a 4-0 start behind the arm of QB Tyler Duncan. They have to be careful though, last year they went into their game against Shadow Mountain 3-1, and the loss kicked off a 6 game skid to end the year.
19) #12 Pueblo at #1 Salpointe
A highly anticipated matchup lost a littler of it's luster after Pueblo was upset by Walden Grove last week. Salpointe has a heavy advantage here, but if the Pueblo defense that held Sunnyside to one score, or the offense that dropped over 60 against Cholla shows up, then Pueblo might have a chance.
18) #8 Mountain View (Marana) at Poston Butte
When I picked Poston Butte to be a playoff team in the preseason, this was the game I had my eye on. If they could have a respectable showing against "The View," I'd know my prediction has merit. Mountain View is averaging 33 pints per game after a season opening shutout loss to Salpointe, and will be hard to slow down if their defensive line keeps getting the ball back for their offense.
17) (5A) Betty Fairfax at (6A) Cesar Chavez
These schools are practically neighbors, which makes this game about as fun as rivalries can be. Can't throw the records out the window in this one- both teams are in dire need of a win headed into regional play.
16) #4 Notre Dame Prep at La Salle (CA)
A rematch of last year's triple OT thriller! LaSalle is having a down year, and is 5 points away from heading into this game at 0-4, meanwhile, Notre Dame Prep is hitting its stride as one of the top teams in all of 5A. The Saints can't take anything for granted though, not with a chance to keep their perfect record intact.
15) #11 Red Mountain at #14 Gilbert
Jack Plummer and company have the Tigers rolling, but none of it matters if they can't get past a team of Red Mountain's caliber. Gilbert doesn't have a single regular season win against the Mountain Lions in any of these kids' lifetimes. Last year was especially brutal, as Red Mountain got three touchdowns from Lance Lawson and held Jack Plummer to his worst game as a starter in a 48-0 blowout.
14) #6 Northwest Christian at #8 Yuma Catholic
The Crusaders are licking their wounds after a loss to American Leadership Acaedmy, and the Shamrocks are still trying to figure out how they gave a late lead away against Seton Catholic. A win would be huge for either school, as it would likely set them up for a guaranteed home playoff game or two down the road- perhaps against each other.
13) (5A) Marana at #7 (4A) Canyon del Oro
A couple of weeks ago, Marana was considered the best 0-2 team in the state. Now, they're 2-2, and have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Canyon del Oro nearly knocked off Ironwood Ridge, and if the can beat Marana, I'll be convinced that they're ready for a serious run in 4A.
12) #9 Desert Mountain at #7 Desert Ridge
The transition to a more balanced offense hasn't been without it's rough patches, but Desert Ridge is still a very dangerous 6A team. Plus, they've dropped over 50 points on Desert Mountain in each of their last four meetings. It'll take a serious gameplan and a lack of mistakes for Desert Mountain to finally vanquish the Jaguars for the first time in school history.
11) #2 Casteel at #11 Show Low
Casteel has been destroying 3A schools, but they have yet to play a 3A school with the pedigree of Show Low. I anticipated a drop off for Show Low this year, and wasn't surprised that they dropped their opener to Round Valley, but they've had three straight blowout wins, and I'm starting to wonder if they aren't worthy of a top 10 spot in the division after all.
10) #15 Safford at #5 Florence
Safford is a very good team that has mixed a run of bad luck with a brutal schedule. It doesn't get any easier this week when the Bulldogs face off against Jared Wood and the Florence Gophers. This will be the toughest QB Safford faces this year, and Safford's defensive line might be the best that Florence has to deal with this season as well.
9) #5 Hamilton at #12 Skyline
After Derek Kline threw for 4 TD passes on Skyline's defense, I began to worry about the Coyotes. They've become known as a ball-control team with a stingy defense, and if you can go over the top, then that changes who hey have to be offensively to keep up. Still, Hamilton struggles to stop the run, and if Skyline ca move the ball on the ground at will, they might not need to change anything. I'd expect a much higher scoring game than the ones you're used to when these teams get together.
8) #8 (4A) Catalina Foothills at #1 (3A) Pusch Ridge
Pusch Ridge has held fast to their #1 preseason ranking despite a difficult schedule, and they don't get a break this week as they take on the defending 4A runner-up, fresh off a comeback win against Empire. In any other week, this might be a top 5 matchup, but because it's interdivisional, I'm less invested in whatever the outcome might be.
7) #14 Arizona Lutheran at #4 (2A) Phoenix Christian
After what Phoenix Christian did to Gilbert Christian, I'm not so sure Arizona Lutheran has a chance. That 69-7 win had to be the most complete destruction of one top 5- caliber team by another top 5 team since Mountain Pointe ran Chandler off the field last September. ALA does have three shutouts this year, however, and they'll need all that defensive acumen and more to stay in the game and score the upset.
6) #2 Queen Creek at #5 Ironwood Ridge
Queen Creek is steamrolling through a very difficult schedule, and they'll get a serious test for their linebackers when traveling to take on Nick Brahler and the bruising Nighthawks ground game. If Devin Larsen can be on the same page with his receivers like he was against Hamilton, I'm not sure Ironwood Ridge has a chance. If its just a matter of run game vs run game, it could be a close one.
5) #6 Campo Verde at #14 Williams Field
Why does it feel like even though Campo Verde's the higher ranked team on a big-time winning-streak, that they're still the underdog? Probably because they wen into last year's game with Williams Field 5-0 and lost by four touchdowns. This is a different Campo team, however, and Williams Field has struggled to find any offense as of late. I don't see Williams Field putting up 40 points on Friday, but I definitely thing that 40 combined points between the two teams is a possibility.
4) #7 Pima at #1 Thatcher
Thatcher has one of the toughest schedules in the state for their level of play, and Friday's no exception. They're hosting a Pima team that has scored 168 points in the last three weeks. A win for Pima would break one of the more lopsided series streaks in the state, as Thatcher owns a 22-0 all-time record against the Roughriders.
3) #6 Pinnacle at #1 Mountain Pointe
This is the third time Pinnacle has faced a #1 team in he last 4 weeks. Good grief. This time they'll take on Mountain Pointe, who narrowly beat the same Chandler team that edged Pinnacle in overtime. It'll be interesting to see how Mountain Pointe handles the multiple receiving threats the Pioneers bring to the table. The Pride have a deep and experienced secondary, but they've yet to face anyone like Spencer Rattler.
2) #3 Sunrise Mountain at #2 Saguaro
Higley wasn't the team that could unseat Saguaro from the 4A throne. I jumped the gun on picking the Knights. Could it be Sunrise Mountain? Saguaro hasn't lost a conference game since 2012, and the Mustangs are two weeks off an impressive takedown of 5A Liberty. I'm not sure I can face some of my SagU alumni friends having picked against them three times in the same season...
1) #4 Highland at #2 Perry
The last time Highland opened a season this hot, Preston Jones was the coach. Now, Jones is on the Perry sideline, shepherding the most talented team Perry has ever put out on the field. Highland won this matchup two years ago, and narrowly lost a barn-burner without Tyler Johnson last year. Could the Hawks be up to the challenge of slowing down this fast-paced Puma squad?
Best of the Rest
Yuma at Kofa
Buena at Douglas
Mountain Ridge at Chandler
Brophy at Mountain View
Cienega at Tucson
Goldwater at McClintock
Kellis at Mesquite
Glendale at North Canyon
Paradise Valley at Liberty