Screen pass --- top games Oct. 22 in EV, southern Arizona

October 21, 2010 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Florence High enjoyed a late-season surge in 2009 that vaulted it to a surprising postseason and a 3A semifinal appearance against Blue Ridge.

Other than the Yellow Jackets stopping the Gophers in the playoffs last November, Florence has continued to win and can clinch the 3A South Region title Friday night by beating visiting Empire.

Empire (7-1, 3-1) edged Florence last year, 21-18, in the regular season. The teams met again in the 3A quarterfinals and the Gophers turned the tables with a solid 21-0 triumph.

Both teams are coming off shutouts of Globe (Florence) and Santa Cruz (Empire) last week. Empire relies on dual-threat quarterback Mito Mendivil to churn out yardage and drives for the Ravens. Empire's defense helped out in the win over Santa Cruz with a a pair of touchdowns off turnovers.

Empire's biggest obstacle in beating Florence (7-1, 5-0) is controlling running back Kyle Washiington, who has 1,128 yards rushing and receiving. Washington scored four touchdowns last week, three on pass receptions from quarterback Jace Hulsey in beating Globe. Washington has 18 TDs for the year.

Here is a brief look at other key games involving schools from the East Valley and southern Arizona this week:

Higley (4-3, 4-0) at Williams Field (7-0, 4-0)

Last year's result: Williams Field 42, Higley 14 -- Higley has won its last four games to keep pace with its recently-arrived Higley district rival in the 4A East Sky Region race. Higley learned from three early losses to solid teams (Queen Creek and Apache Junction in 4A-I) and Liberty, one of the top teams in 4A-II. Senior running back/safety Kelvin Fisher is the offensive mainstay for the Knights. Defensively, 2010 has been a big year for Knights' linebacker Ben Vaivao, lineman Joe McBride and defensive back Darien Brunson. Williams Field has been the toughest team on defense in the 4A East Sky with linebackers Tyler Strom and Skyler Wengert inflicting damage at the point of attack and smallish defensive end Kenny Davidson supplying pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Williams Field has not allowed more than 16 points in a game. The Black Hawks got leading rusher Alex Howard back last week and he didn't disappointe with 135 yards rushing and four TDs (one via pass reception).

Queen Creek (6-1, 1-0) at Apache Junction (5-3, 1-1)

Last year's result: Apache Junction 52, Queen Creek 14 -- Many of the key players who battled in last year's game are back for another stab at one another. Queen Creek broke out to a 14-0 lead last year and then watched the Prospectors reel off 52 consecutive points. Queen Creek has lost only to unbeaten Canyon del Oro thus far. The Bulldogs are led by running back Chim Nga and quarterback Adam Brzeczek. The Prospectors counter with running backs Harrison Pomeroy and Tanner Morgan and quarterback Roy MacHuca, who paced a 480-yard rushing attack in last year's romp.

Brophy (4-3, 2-1) at Hamilton (8-0, 2-0)

Last year's result: Hamilton 24, Brophy 21 -- With Brophy quarterback Tyler Bruggman sidelined with a broken ankle, the Broncos are severely handicapped on offense. Two week ago Hamilton had quarterback Kyren Poe go down with a shoulder injury. Poe's backup, Blake Kemp, entered and the Huskies didn't miss a beat. They  went on to beat Salpointe. Hamilton is fresh coming off its bye, so the luster that usually clings to a Brophy-Hamilton game is missing. Brophy had to piece together the quarterback spot last week. The Broncos' defense helped out in edging Mesa, 9-7.

Chandler (5-2) at Desert Vista (5-2)

Last year's result: Chandler 29, Desert Vista 22 -- An improved Desert Vista might be able to give Chandler a tussle with the Wolves a little banged up. Chandler played last week against Red Mountain without its top three running backs, all of whom were out with injuries. The only one that is back  is Aaron Mayo. Quarterback Brett Hundley is also gimpy with a bad ankle, won't start and may not play at all to rest the ankle. Desert Vista has played better defense this season. The Thunder have allowed an average of 15 points per game this year compared to 25 a game last year to this point. They already have a Fiesta Region win, they didn't get last year. Closing with the Wolves, Brophy and Red Mountain will determine if they are deserving of a playoff berth.

Gilbert (3-5, 2-2) at Mountain View (4-3, 3-1)

Last year's result: Mountain View 36, Gilbert 22 -- Huge game for both. Gilbert's schedule is keeping it in striking distance (18th) in the power rankings. The Tigers have already played the two Central Region leaders (Basha and Mesquite) and alos faced Chaparral and Mountain Ridge. All of those schools have five wins or more to date. Winning out (Mountain View, Highland and Westwood) and finishing 6-5 is not out of the question for the Tigers. The return of Gilbert running back David Martinez brings better balance to the Tigers' offense and a  play maker. Mountain View's Achilles heel this season is the lack of a game-breaker on offense. The Toros have lost two games by a touchdown or less (Mountain Ridge and Mesquite).When the Toros piece together drives they've been tough to beat. Mountain View has a rigorous finish with Chandler and Basha on the road after this one to close the regular season.

Red Mountain (5-2) at Centennial (7-0)

Last year's result: Centennial 52, Red Mountain 14 -- Red Mountain has played Brophy and Chandler tough, but no wins yet against a solid playoff caliber opponent. Hamilton and Desert Vista follow this one for the Mountain Lions so winning one of the three would be helpful heading to postseason. Centennial has too many weapons for Red Mountain to keep in check for four quarters. The Coyotes have beaten teams Red Mountain has not, Chandler and Brophy. 

Lake Havasu (6-1, 3-0) at Cibola (7-0, 3-0)

Last meeting (Sept. 17) result: Cibola 42, Lake Havasu 18 -- Cibola continued to roll last week, blasting Yuma High, 42-6. This is the second meeting between the schools this season. With travel restrictions imposed on teams in the Gila Region, playing a couple opponents twice is common. The Raiders are led by running back Jordan Mitchell (1,500 yards rushing and 20 TDs), who ripped through Lake Havasu last month for four touchdowns. Havasu is led by quarterback Paul Lake and receiver Max Dreager, who accounted for most of the Knights' offense in the first meeting with Cibola. The first meeting between the schools did not count as a region game, but this one does.

Sunnyside (5-2, 2-0) at Ironwood Ridge (5-3)

Last year's result: Sunnyside 35, Ironwood Ridge 14 -- Sunnyside is ridging a four-game winning streak and is turning in a pretty decent season despite an inexperienced team, which includes talented freshman quarterback Andy Cota. Running back Manny Vera has keyed the Blue Devils offense all season and must do so again in this one. Vera rushed for 261 yards and five touchdowns last week and totals 1,469 yards rushing for the season. Ironwood Ridge is no pushover. The Nighthawks three losses to date are to Canyon del Oro, Cienega and Salpointe, three of the top four teams in Tucson. Ironwood Ridge has plenty of offense to defend. Quarterback Tyler D'amoure has passed fro 1, 705 yards and 21 touchdowns and receiver Trevor Wesley has 45 catches for 685 yards and nine TDs. Running back Mitch Fischer has rushed for 817 yards and nine TDs.

Willcox (8-0, 4-0) at Thatcher (4-4, 4-0)

Last year's result: Willcox 41, Thatcher 0 -- Thatcher has played the tougher schedule, particularly its non-region games by facing Safford, Show Low and Empire (all 3A schools) and 2A title contender Tempe Prep. Still, Willcox has allowed just 19 points all season and no more than one touchdown in any game. The Cowboys reached the 2A final losing in a tough one to Valley Christian and have retooled to be right back where they were in 2009. Thatcher had Tempe Prep on the ropes, but gave up two late scores to drop a 20-15 decision. The Eagles would like a marquee win to take to the postseason.