Last week I went 20-5 in my Top 25 picks. I'm now 69-30 overall.
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25) Basha at #10 Desert Mountain
This might be the Bears' last chance to find their groove this season. I liked the way Basha handled Westview's rushing attack, but they were completely overwhelmed by Red Mountain and an inexperienced sophomore tailback. Desert Mountain's passing offense might give this defense the break it needs- or Kedon Slovis might pick the Bears apart. This game intrigues me because last year Collin Collins got the green light to make his first start, and he lit it up. Can he regain that momentum, or will Desert Mountain's improved defense steal the show at home?
24) (2A) Red Mesa at #15 (3A) Monument Valley
Monument Valley's Bryan Begay lost two of his first three games against Red Mesa, but hasn't lost to Arizona's northeastern-most school in the last 7 years. Red Mesa comes into this game undefeated, and it might be their best chance to break the losing streak.
23) Boulder Creek at #14 Red Mountain
Five losses between these two teams was the last thing I was expecting when I was looking at a preseason list of potentially intriguing games for week 4 of the season. Now it's intriguing for all the wrong reasons. Both schools made coaching changes that they hoped would turn the tide of the program, both are on the verge of having done the opposite and let the tide come in more quickly. I'd at the very least like to see Boulder Creek get their offense going the way it did against Hamilton in zero week.
22) #1 Perry at Corona del Sol
It's official, the Pumas are #1 in 6A. Sure, it took other teams losing to each other to get them there, but all the Pumas have done is take care of what's in front of them. Will the pressure change their approach at all? No, they're just having fun right now. So much fun, in fact, that they're just 44 points away from eclipsing the total scoring output they had in all 11 games of 2015.
21) Willow Canyon at Sunnyslope
I only have this game on here because last year's ended 7-0, like it was being played in the 1930's. That- and truthfully, both of these teams are fighting to be more than average, and looking ahead at both schedules, the winner of this game has a very good chance to finish the season above .500.
20) #5 Highland at Westview
Some people are already looking ahead to the potential week 5 matchup of undefeated Perry and Highland. Not me- I think Westview's on the brink of figuring thinks out, and the way both teams use the running game and ball control, I feel like anything could happen here. Highland is trying to start 5-0 for the first time since 1998, and Westview, who had never been 0-3 before this year, is trying to avoid 0-4 and what would be their second longest losing streak in school history. This is a team that averaged 9 wins per game from 2010-2016.
19) Mesquite at #11Desert Edge
Two teams that probably didn't expect to be 2-2 are already fighting for their playoff lives in week 4? That's compelling stuff- and Mesquite's defensive line against Desert Edge's offensive line will be a good test for both squads.
18) #13 Skyline at Millennium
Last week was the first time Skyline gave up four touchdown passes (or even three touchdown passes) in a game in over two years. Should the Coyotes be concerned? Millennium's win over a similar-style Verrado team makes this game nearly impossible to predict.
17) North Canyon at Maricopa
Solomon Enis took over the planet last week- and really, all season. Now that the Rattlers are finding ways to get the ball in his hands more often by using him out of the backfield, I feel like they'll be able to compete with a Maricopa team still reeling after a home shutout against Centennial. Still, the Rams are better than they've been in years, and North Canyon will have to play some very good football to compete in this one.
16) #15 Gilbert at Westwood
Gilbert and Westwood are two teams that, when good, make Arizona high school football a lot more fun- people come out of the woodworks to show their alumni pride. I think the Tigers have a clear advantage here with Jack Plummer and their improved defense, but it's at Westwood, where anything can happen. The Warriors lead the all-time series 7-5.
15) #15 Deer Valley at #2 Queen Creek
Deer Valley missed the playoffs because of a slow start last year, and after the way they've started 2017, they're on the verge of the same fate again. Enter Queen Creek, a team that's playing inspired football and hasn't missed a beat despite injuries and a schedule full of 6A schools. Deer Valley's going to need to play desperate but disciplined football to get the job done on Friday.
14) #13 Bourgade Catholic at #8 Pima
This might be the highest scoring game of the week- or if Bourgade Catholic plays like they did in the first half last week, it might not be. Bourgade gave up 6 points before the half last week, and 30 after the break in their first loss of the season. Pima's been doing their best to outscore other teams, and are 3-1 while averaging 50 points per game.
13) Paradise Valley at #14 Goldwater
Goldwater being 3-0 is hard to wrap my mind around. Especially when you consider they've been at this for over 30 years and have never won more than 6 games in a season. Paradise stands in the way of a historic 4-0 start for Goldwater, and the Trojans are doing some impressive things on the defensive side of the ball.
12) #6 Hamilton at #12 Cesar Chavez
Cesar Chavez played Queen Creek tougher than Hamilton did- but Hamilton's offense presents the most frustrating matchup issues in the state right now. I don't think Chavez needs any extra motivation, but in case they do, here's a reminder that they're 0-11 all-time against the Chandler Unified School District.
11) #9 Tempe Prep at #5 Scottsdale Christian
Scottsdale Christian had this game circled as soon as the whistle blew on last year's loss to Tempe Prep. Scottsdale Christian, unable to stop the run, watched RB Ahmad Jones go up and down the field with impunity. Well, guess what? I don't see Ahmad Jones on Tempe Prep's roster this year. Can someone else bear the load?
10) #12 Safford at #9 Snowflake
I'll be at this game- I like to see both of these team in person at least once per year, and this happens to be a pretty big game, so I'm happy to make the four hour drive for some 3A action. I'm looking forward to seeing big Ralph Frias take on the Lobos pass rush.
9) #2 Casteel at Monte Vista (CA)
Arizona hasn't fared well against out of state teams. We need redeemed. I think it's fair to say we're all Colts fans this Friday.
8) #12 Apollo at Lake Havasu
You have to watch this film of Apollo's Kaleb Seumanutafa against Deer Valley's offensive line last week. If they can't stop him, who can? Maybe the drive all the way out to Havasu will disorient him?
7) #1 Thatcher at #7 Morenci
My favorite thing about Thatcher is that 7 of the last 8 opponents have been high caliber (tough to have things work out that way in 2A) and they've taken care of business every time. This team is special, but they won't get a break this week against undefeated Morenci.
6) #2 Mountain Pointe at #9 Mountain View
It's been a long time since this could be considered a top matchup in the state in any given week. Mountain View has proven to me, even in their loss to Pinnacle, that they're among the state's top 10 teams right now. Mountain Pointe has to be careful that they don't have a post-Chander hangover, and come out focused.
5) #7 Williams Field at Chaparral
Chaparral's field is finally finished, and they'll welcome one of the best, angriest teams to their house on Friday night. Williams Field couldn't get their offense rolling against Verrado, and Chaparral couldn't get their defense going in their game at Valencia last week. Both teams are in need of redemption and have something to prove.
4) #5 Verrado at #9 Liberty
I'm not sure that the status of Liberty QB Ryan Bendle is after his injury on the second-to-last series against Sunrise Mountain last week, but I do know that this is more about whether Liberty has an answer in the inside running game, because Verrado's not afraid to hand the ball off up the middle. If you're out at this game, keep an eye on Verrado's offensive line against an active Liberty front 7, and watch to see if Ryan Puskas can plug gaps from his safety position to keep Ja'Tai Jenkins from running wild.
3) #6 Phoenix Christian at #4 Gilbert Christian
It's crowded at the top of 2A, and I appreciate that this game will bring some clarity about who is and is not currently a contender. Who knows though? This might be a state championship preview...
2) #4 Pinnacle at #1 Centennial
Centennial hasn't surrendered a point in last 14 quarters, and Richard Taylor has 59 career shutouts. Pinnacle has scored in 128 straight games. Those stats might sound like I'm setting this game up to be a question of whether or not Pinnacle will score, and not whether Pinnacle has a chance to actually win- but of course Pinnacle has a chance to win, because they're bringing in maybe the best defense they've ever had as well. This game is where everyone needs to be on Thursday. No excuses.
1) #4 American Leadership at #3 Northwest Christian
Can any other team say they're unbeaten against Northwest Christian? In their only two matchups, both last year, American Leadership came out on top. This game has everything I like in a regular season matchup- high rankings, a playoff rematch, east side vs west side, championship preview potential... what's not to like?
Best of the Rest
Desert Vista at Brophy
Santa Cruz at Tonopah Valley
Winslow at Tuba
Catalina at Empire