Best in the West: Oct. 14, 2022 Spotlight

Arizona Sports News online

Big games across all levels of football hit the field this Friday night with region play in full swing. Many teams face opponents they know well with potential playoff rankings on the line. Let’s dig into some of the big games happening on the west side this weekend as the end of the season begins to draw near.


Game of the Week: Centennial @ Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor played a gauntlet in last year’s non-region schedule against Basha, Chandler, Chaparral, and Highland. They would lose all of those games. But they learned. They improved. And they didn’t lose another regular season game en route to the seventh seed in last year’s 6A Tournament and nearly defeated Pinnacle in the playoffs. The Eagles have taken that momentum into 2022 with a tremendous 4-1 start with their lone loss to Saguaro. Now they face another massive challenge as Centennial comes to town.

The Centennial Coyotes have won their last four straight after a season-opening loss to Hamilton and squeezed by Williams Field two weeks ago with a 24-22 victory. The defensive line has built a wall courtesy of Salehe Koonooka and Noah Carter, totaling over seven sacks each and over 20 total tackles. But thus far this season, no one has been able to stop running back, Kavaughn Clark. The Coyotes’ senior has surpassed 100 yards in each game with an average of 150 rush yards per contest in addition to eight touchdowns. Last year wasn’t the end result that Centennial wanted. This year could be what the Coyotes need to get them back toward Open Division Playoff form.

Sandra Day seniors such as Blake Ware and Ryan Davis will be tasked with trying to stop the powerful Coyote run game. SDOHS has its own strong run game as well with senior, Izik Durazo, racking up 506 rush yards and seven rush TDs while junior, Nathan Bayus, has 264 rush yards and four more touchdowns. Also keep an eye on senior QB, Cooper King, with his connection to lead receiver, Ben Currence.

Both teams are ranked among the top 12 teams in the state by the AIA. Depending on what happens in front of them in the rankings, a win for either team could propel them into the Open Division seedings with just four weeks remaining in the season.


Peoria Foes Face Off

Sunrise Mountain and Cactus have an interesting history with one another. The duo has played each other eleven times since 2011. Cactus won the first chunk. Then Sunrise Mountain collected the next batch of wins in dominating fashion. That was until Cactus’ elite year in 2021. Now, SMHS is 5-6 against Cactus since 2011 and looks to bounce back after a 50-7 loss in this PUSD matchup last year.

Sunrise Mountain takes their squad to Cobra country following a bye week and will have the ability to utilize their transfers for the first time this season with a 3-2 record. Six different players have attempted passes so far this season but one constant has been their senior trio of De’Mykal Anderson, Rex Underhill, and Braden Harvey. Anderson and Underhill have kept the offense beating with their bursts of speed as running backs. The duo are the only players on the team to surpass 300 total yards of offense while Harvey has been a bright spot in the receiving core leading the team in receiving yards and receptions.

After three great seasons in the 4A Conference, the Cobras were shifted up to 5A and were given a gauntlet of games to open the season against three teams ranked in the top 13 in the state – Basha, Desert Mountain, and ALA – Queen Creek. The AIA rankings have awarded Cactus the eighth ranking in 5A in part because of their strength of schedule, and now CHS has to prove they belong there. The Cobras have stayed healthy and seem to have finally found a rhythm after wins against Mesquite, Snowflake, and Peoria. Cactus enters 5A Desert West Region play with senior running back, Damian Jiles, coming off a 202-yard, five-touchdown rushing performance on homecoming night against rival, Peoria. Junior, Raymond Jones has been a monster on the defensive side with 64 total tackles, four TFL, and seven sacks. Also keep an eye on senior, Dom Solano, who has put up an outrageous 17 tackles for loss in 2022.

This district bout means a lot with Cactus ranked eighth while Sunrise Mountain has been relegated to the outside looking into the playoffs ranked 17th. SMHS’ lone losses have come against powerful 6A teams, Liberty – ranked number one in the state – and Boulder Creek. This will be a 5A game to watch with both teams entering region play.


2A Battle for Playoff Certainty

The 2A Conference season is nearing its conclusion and everyone is making their case to qualify for the playoffs. Tonopah Valley holds the seventh seed with a 6-1 record in search of its first tournament appearance since 2015. Meanwhile, Trivium Prep hopes to jump back into their winning ways following their bye week while holding onto the final qualifying seed barring region champions.

Tonopah Valley is orchestrating a massive bounce-back season after finishing 2021 as the 34-seed with a 1-7 record. If The Phoenix can hold onto a top-eight seed, they will host in the first round of the state tournament. Tonopah Valley senior, Joseph McCubbin, has racked up over 100 receiving yards in five of TVHS’s seven games. McCubbin leads the team with 871 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns catching balls from freshman, Malachi Wilt, and now, senior, Chace Logan, who threw for 502 yards last week. Defensively, Billy Love has been a tackling machine with 63 total tackles. Meanwhile, fellow senior, Abis Lebron leads the team with eight TFL and two sacks. Seven different players have caused fumbles and four different players have snatched interceptions.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Crimson Knights of Trivium Prep. Every game has featured either a team in the top five of the rankings or outside the top 20 in rankings. Now entering game two of a three-game road trip, senior running back, Maximus Sief, will be leaned on to help Trivium Prep get into the endzone. Sief has racked up a team-leading 547 yards on 93 carries to score 11 touchdowns this season. Sophomore, Vern Wolfley has been versatile for the Crimson Knights with seven tackles for loss, a pair of sacks, two fumble causes, and a pick-six. On top of that, the young sophomore has also racked up a rushing touchdown and four receptions in the endzone. And don’t forget to tack on his rushing and receiving two-point conversions as well.

This is a massive game for both teams as one fights for a playoff home game while the other battles for their playoff life in this 2A Hassayampa Region bout. Both squads will only have two games left in the regular season following this week.


Keep watch at Sports360AZ for all of our high school football content including Bleacher Talk, Zone Read, AZ Audibles, Recruiting Roundup, and more. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayNight360AZ and follow @Sports360AZ to keep up with the action from across the state on Friday nights!