Last Week I went 21-5 in my Top 25 picks. I'm now 110-40 overall.
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25) Glendale at Fairfax (9/28)
Glendale lost this game by 49 last year, but the Cardinals are 4-1 in 2017 and the AIA playoff formula is loving it. While they're just outside my top 15, the AIA currently has Glendale at #27 in 5A, and considers them to have had the easiest schedule in the entire division. It puts another level of intrigue on this game, because for Glendale it's essentially a playoff game.
24) South Mountain at Camelback (9/29)
Another 5A Union contest, this one features Camelback's talented rushing attack against the surprising 4-1 Jaguars of South Mountain. While they had a great start, these are the games that really matter for South Mountain.
23) #1 Pusch Ridge at #15 Empire (9/29)
Empire finally worked their way into my 3A top 15, and they nearly upset the same Catalina Foothills team that Pusch Ridge had to come back in the second half to beat last week. This might be a better game than people are anticipating.
22) Poston Butte at #11 Williams Field (9/29)
Williams Field got a much needed win against undefeated Campo Verde last week, but there was nothing convincing or comforting about the one-point, last-second victory. The Blackhawks need to be careful here to not be upset by an upstart Poston Butte squad that nearly upset Marana Mountain View last week.
21) Page at #14 Monument Valley (9/29)
I wasn't sure about including this in my top games of the week, but then Page went out and scored 70+ against Holbrook last week, and it has me wondering if they can upset Monument Valley.
20) Thunderbird at #12 Flagstaff (9/29)
A 5-0 Flagstaff team has definitely raised the profile of the high school football scene up north, but can they sustain that momentum against Thunderbird? Chiefs QB Andy Wittenwyler is averaging 47 pass attempts per game the last three games, so you'd figure this game could be a shootout.
19) #10 Verrado at Deer Valley (9/29)
Verrado is probably the state's most manic up-and-down team, while a promising Deer Valley is now playing with their back against the wall. This is as important as any section contest in the state, as the winner of this game is put into a likely position of having to beat Desert Edge to lock down a playoff spot. Verrado may be able to make the playoffs going 1-1 in those games, but Deer Valley will probably have to be 0-2.
18) #9 Snowflake at #8 Winslow (9/29)
Winslow is 5-0, and the only way we're going to know if they're a legit playoff contender is if they can keep it rolling against a young, scrappy Snowflake team. This is Winslow's first home game in a month, and they're hoping to use that home-field advantage against a Lobos team that has beaten them 10 times in a row.
17) #9 St. Johns at #1 Thatcher (9/29)
St. Johns has consistently outperformed my expectations for them in 2017, but can they beat a Thatcher team that has taken down some of the better lower-division teams in the state? Thatcher beat St. Johns by 42 last year, so it'll be tough.
16) #6 Gilbert Christian at #8 Tempe Prep (9/29)
Gilbert Christian struggled to stop Phoenix Christian's rushing attack in check two weeks ago, and now they're tasked with taking on Tempe Prep, which might as well be called "rushing attack prep." If Gilbert Christian can keep Tempe Prep from dominating the time of possession, they might come out with a quality road win.
15) #13 Desert Mountain at #8 Pinnacle (9/28)
What do y'all think will happen here between Rattler and Slovis? 80 total pass attempts? This game will be good for Pinnacle in that they'll get a break from smashmouth rushing attacks keeping their defense on its heels, but it'll also be an interesting challenge because Desert Mountain might be the most similar offense to what the Pioneers run themselves.
14) McClintock at #12 Apollo (9/29)
Trap game? McClintock hung tough with a similarly constructed Campo Verde team, so they might be prepared for Apollo's offensive and defensive strategies. I expect this game to have no more than 40 total points, as the ground game for both teams will keep the clock running.
13) #11 Mesa Mountain View at #12 Skyline (9/28)
Skyline did a great job last week limiting Hamilton's time of possession with a strong rushing attack from Aaron Wood- the problem was that they weren't able to turn those 300+ yards into points. Mesa Mountain View has a solid run defense and if Skyline wants to get back into the win column, they're going to have to be a little more diverse offensively. Defensively, Skyline faces another team with talented receives on the outside. If they can get to the QB early and often, they'll eliminate that passing threat.
12) #7 (3A) Benjamin Franklin at #7 (2A) San Tan Foothills (9/29)
This is a great late-season interdivisional game. While I'm usually not a huge fan of games like this in the second half of the season, I think this has the potential to make both teams better ahead of potential playoff runs. Speaking of running, if there's not at least 500 combined rushing yards in this game, I'm going to be very disappointed.
11) #11 Catalina at #4 Sabino (9/28)
Catalina might be the least talked about 5-win team at this point in the season, but that will change if they can beat Sabino, a legitimate title contender in 3A. Alex Bell has proven to be a dangerous weapon in Sabino's offense, and if he continues to be an efficient playmaker, Sabino will be tough to upset.
10) #3 American Leadership at #5 Florence (9/29)
American Leadership and Florence is an interesting matchup in that you have a rapidly growing charter school taking on a neighborhood public school, both being tile contenders in 3A. Florence has an opportunity to prove they belong in that conversation in as important as a regular season home game as the Gophers have had in years.
9) #5 Desert Ridge at #15 Gilbert (9/28)
Desert Ridge had a breakout game last week against Desert Mountain, while Gilbert lost to Red Mountain- that might make you think this game is already in the bag- but the Tigers are a formidable opponent. Jack Plummer is having one of the most successful seasons in Gilbert quarterbacking history, with 19 TD passes halfway through the season- the most for a Gilbert QB in the last 11 seasons.
8) #10 Canyon del Oro at #9 Catalina Foothills (9/28)
Catalina Foothills has had a tough schedule as of late, and Canyon del Oro is looking to make up for getting blown out by Marana last week. I'm not sure Catalina Foothills has the ability to slow down Elijah Carey, but they can (and will) put up plenty of points. First team to 30 wins.
7) #6 Ironwood Ridge at #7 Mountain View (Marana) (9/28)
Ironwood Ridge nearly took down Queen Creek last week, so now it's time to see if there's going to be a hangover, or if they can capitalize on that momentum and beat a talented Marana Mountain View squad.
6) #4 Notre Dame at #14 Chaparral (9/28)
Chaparral put together a complete performance against Sunnyslope last week, and they'll need to take an even greater step forward if they're going to withstand the electric Notre Dame offense, as well as their effective pass rush.
5) #2 Mountain Pointe at #6 Desert Vista (9/28)
Thursday games often depress turnout, so it will be interesting to see if the 10-13,000 that typically show up for the 'Tukee Bowl are in attendance tonight. Mountain Pointe has the clear advantage in this game after what they've done to both Chandler and Pinnacle, but Desert Vista isn't going to give up quietly. Not at home against their rival.
4) #6 Yuma Catholic at #2 Casteel (9/29)
The ultimate revenge game. Casteel's shot at a perfect 2016 was derailed not once, but twice by the Shamrocks last season. Yuma Catholic is younger this year, and has a loss on their record, so this is the Colts' best chance to show 3A that they're not just talented for a bunch of juniors, but that they're the team to beat in the division.
3) (4A) #2 Salpointe at (5A) #3 Cienega (9/28)
Some of the top Southern Arizona talent is all going to be on the field at the same time in this game, and I'm leaning toward being in attendance. This game doesn't mean much in the way of playoff implications, but it can be looked at as bragging rights for the top team in the Tucson area.
2) St. Thomas Aquinas at #1 Centennial (9/29)
One of the most storied programs in the country takes on one of Arizona's most storied programs. Now that Centennial has shown that Ruben Beltran and the passing game aren't something you can ignore, I feel like this game will be a lot more competitive.
1) #6 Peoria at #5 Cactus (9/29)
There's nothing better than when two teams in the same region of the same division, who happen to be bitter rivals, head into their game against each other with an undefeated record. No out of state opponent or interdivisional super match-up can take the #1 spot away from the thing that makes high school football one of the most compelling forms of entertainment on the planet- the good old fashioned grudge match.
Best of the Rest
Brophy at Hamilton
Maricopa at Ironwood
Buena at Sahuaro
Mesquite at Queen Creek
Saguaro at Marcos de Niza
Cactus Shadows at Shadow Mountain