6A football preview

November 9, 2017 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

The elite eight in 6A are the expected teams from the initial bracket of 16 -- except for No. 15 Westview which stunned No. 2 Desert Ridge the opening round. That said seven teams are chasing one -- Chandler. The Wolves appear on a roll that none of the rest can subdue.

Chandler has won two titles in the last three years, but  has yet to win back-to-back. It's going to take a herculean effort from the rest of the field to prevent that.

Here's a glance at the remaining field:

#1 Mountain Pointe (9-2): The Pride didn't overwhelm opponents late in the season -- not in the manner a top-seed should. But teams that play old-fashioned football don't need to be overwhleming. Mountain Pointe has done fine with a sold ground game and its customary stingy defense. Mountain Pointe throttled Cibola, 65-0, in its postseason opener. Jakim McKinney, Gary Bragg and Nick Wallerstedt have combined for nearly 2,600 yards rushing and 31 TDs.

#3 Chandler (9-2): After a rash of injuries the first half of the season made the Wolves mortal, it doen't look that way any longer. Quarterback Jacob Conover has played in 5 1/2 games, including the last four after a shoulder injury against IMG Academy. He's strung together three successive 300-yard games passing to lead an unstoppable offense. Since Conover's return and that top two receivers Gunner Romney and Jarick Caldwell and a couple of defensive standouts, The running game is just fine with essentially two 1,000-yard rushers in senior Drake Anderson (1,485 yards, 24 TDs) and junior Decarlos Brooks (996 yards, 13 TDs) Chandler is averaging 51 points a game. The defense is good enough to slow capable offenses left in the playoffs. There is much to like about Chandler's chances.

#4 Perry (10-1): There is no quarterback in 6A having a better year than the Pumas' Brock Purdy. Purdy has thrown for 3,174 yards and 42 TDs and rushed for another796 yards and 7 TDs. This is a team very much like last year's 11-2 juggernaut that bowed only to Chandler (twice). Perry swears it's a better defensive team than last season. But the Pumas have allowed 16 fewer points in 11 games than they did last year in 11 game. Perry needs more stops when facing the Chandler's and Hamilton's. Both are stumbling blocks along the way to the state title, both of whom scored 60 points or more in last year's playoffs against the Pumas and essentially did so again in the last month.

#5 Hamilton (8-3): The Huskies outscore opponents to win. They have that ability with senior quarterback Tyler Shough (2,866 yards passing, 28 TDs) and senior running back Jawhar Jordan (1,757 yards, 28 TDs). The defense has been a bit better this year, but still yields almost 30 points a game. Hamilton has performed quite well considering the distraction hovering around the school the past six months. A lot of that credit can go head coach Dick Baniszewski's way, who has proven a steadying influence. Hamilton draws Perry in another Arena Football-type matchup in the quarters.

#6 Pinnacle (9-3): The Pioneers have performed much as they did in 2016 with a couple more wins. They did a better job navigating their rugged non-region schedule, but weren't able to defeat playoff powers Chandler, Mountain Pointe or Centennial. Those are the brand of opponent left the final three rounds. They proceeded to run roughshod over the rest of the Desert Valley Region again on the way to the region title. Pinnacle standout Spencer Rattler has thrown at least three TD passes in each the last seven games and has 40 TDs throwing for the year. Pinnacle has amassed nearly 6,000 yards of offense in 12 games. 

#7 Red Mountain (9-2): The Mountain Lions have won nine games in a row after beginning the season with losses to Chandler and Hamilton. They can relate to Westview. They were a #13 seed last year that found their way to the semifinals. They didn't expect to be playing a second playoff home game this year after being road warriors in postseason a year ago. Red Mountain is led by versatile senior Lance Lawson, who has been more himself recovering from early-season injury down the stretch. Lawson opened the playoffs with a three-touchdown game in a 56-24 romp over Horizon -- running and throwing for scores of course. 

#8 Highland (8-3): A solid defense is the calling card for the Hawks who won their first playoff game in nearly a decade in the opening round. The offense isn't high octane most weeks. The Hawks rushed for better than 400 yards in their playoff opener. The defenses they'll face going forward for the most part are much better. Highland draws a rematch with Mountain Pointe, a team that is somewhat its mirror image with a strong rushing attack and defense. Mountain Pointe rallied for a 14-13 win early in October.

#15 Westview (6-5): The Knights, winners of six games in a row, made the most of their opportunity in the first round. Their playoff spot is courtesy of winning their region. Westview opened the season 0-5 losing to three playoff teams (Horizon, Highland and Centennial). Coach Nick Gehrts' squad won a pair of tight region games over Valley Vista and Millennium that went a long way in nailing down the region crown. Westview is known for its running game and spreads the ball among five backs with 300 yards rushing or more.

The quarterfinal matchups this week: Highland at Mountain Pointe; Hamilton at Perry; Pinnacle at Chandler and Westview at Red Mountain.