Arizona’s top three high school football divisions still have two weeks left in the regular season, as the 2A and 3A conferences begin their playoff games this week. But in 1A — the only level in the state to play eight-man football — we’re already in the semifinals.
The big story is that Mogollon is vying for a third straight title, but the Mustangs aren’t the favorites this time around. Here are the matches:
No. 4 Williams at No. 1 Hayden, Thursday, 7 p.m
As is often the case at the lower levels, the AIA rankings have proven accurate so far in the playoffs, with the top four seeds all advancing to the semifinals. Hayden, then, remains the favorite to win his second ever title, honoring his own championship team’s 50th anniversary in style. The Lobos, who hail from Winkelman near the New Mexico border, have knocked off two of the other three teams left this season. However, they have not faced Williams.
With a defense that has posted four shutouts this season, Williams may have what it takes to stifle a ridiculous Hayden offense that is averaging 61 points per game. Offensively, Williams is more reliant on her ground game, especially running Drew Logan, who enters with 29 tackles to his name this year. Hayden can also run the football, but their biggest star is quarterback Fabian Elvira, who has thrown for 41 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Prediction: Hayden 38, Williams 27
No. 3 Mogollon in No. 2 St. David, Friday, 6:00 p.m
Although Hayden is the top team in 1A — having beaten both of those schools — Friday’s game carries a different level of intrigue. Mogollon wiped the floor with St. David, 58-12, in last year’s championship game, but St. David rebounded with a 61-44 thriller over Mogollon in September.
St. David’s improvement since last year makes sense. The Tigers are an experienced team dominated by seniors on both sides of the ball. Their leaders in passing, rushing, receiving, touchdowns, tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles and forced fumbles are all seniors. Those boys remember the bitterness of last year’s championship loss and are determined to avoid a repeat. However, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Mogollon is an explosive offensive team that is hitting its stride at the right time, especially in a 36-24 win over Williams earlier this month. Unlike St. David, Mogollon starts a lot of juniors, but they get contributions from everywhere.
Prediction: St. David 45, Mogollon 42
Theo Mackie covers Arizona high school sports and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter @theo_mackie.