Just about halfway through the season, this week’s Best in the West takes a look at some of the games happening on the west side this weekend, including a couple of rivalries and teams with something to prove.
Game of the Week: Peoria @ Cactus
When Cactus was moved to the 5A Conference this offseason, it was relieving to know that one of the greatest and oldest rivalries in the state would still be alive. Peoria and Cactus meet for the 38th time dating back to 1978. Cactus has won 11 of the last 14 games against Peoria and hopes to get to .500 after a brutal schedule to start the year.
Cactus’ three losses have come against three Open Division hopefuls, Desert Mountain, ALA – Queen Creek, and Basha – who defeated Cactus last week 58-0. Now, the Cobras return to the west valley and open the second half of the season against a team they know better than anyone. Junior quarterback, Braiden Lagafuaina, has gotten more comfortable behind the center and is up to 764 passing yards even though the Cobras have only scored more than seven points in one game this season. Senior, Damian Jiles continues to be the steady beat of the offense with 354 rush yards. Junior, Raymond Jones, has been a defensive monster with a team-leading 53 tackles while senior, Dom Solano, has tallied seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
— Ed Russell Photog (@edrussellphotog) September 23, 2022
The 4A Conference Peoria Panthers have won their last three games after a loss to Arcadia to open the season. After wins against ALA – West Foothills, Raymond S. Kellis, and Sierra Linda, the Panthers face what might be the biggest test they will face all year. Freshman, Dominic Kramer, has had to take over the quarterback position and threw for 119 yards and two touchdowns last week against SLHS. A pair of running backs have helped the heartbeat of the offense with junior, Sebastian Carrillo, collecting 360 yards and four TDs while senior, Isaiah Becker, has totaled 249 yards and two touchdowns. Be sure to keep your eye on Gabriel Rodriquez who has been a defensive monster with a team-leading 44 total tackles, 14 TFL, and seven sacks.
For the first time in their 38 historic meetings, both teams feature first-time head coaches, although neither are new to this rivalry and culture. Brian Belles has taken over for Cactus but has been part of the program since 1999 with a couple of one-year stints elsewhere. Jason Golden is now at the helm of Peoria but was part of Cactus’ staff for two years and has resided at Peoria since 2014. This rivalry has grown and evolved over the past decade but one thing is for sure, it’s good to see this duo still playing in 2022.
A Run-Game West Side War
This is just the third time that Barry Goldwater and Apollo go head-to-head. The first game was in Goldwater’s inaugural season in a 39-26 Bulldog victory. Their most recent game was just two years ago with another BGHS win, 28-10. These two teams are going to put a beating on the Apollo field with their plethora of rushing talent.
A 4-1 start for Barry Goldwater marks their best opening half of a season since 2004 as they search for their first postseason appearance since 2007. The Bulldogs have found success by feeding their ball carriers. Junior, Markhi McKinnon, and senior, Osyruss Rodriguez, have combined for 1,539 rush yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. McKinnon has rushed for over 100 yards in all five games this season. Meanwhile, Rodriguez has also been a massive asset on defense. The RB/LB leads the team with four sacks and four TFL while also racking up 47 total tackles.
14 carries 200+ yards 3td
852yards so far pic.twitter.com/PWHDMfBmT7
— Markhi Mckinnon (@MarkhiMckinnon) October 2, 2022
Apollo is still in search of their first victory against Barry Goldwater and is coming off a massive 50-0 shutout of Copper Canyon. Even though the Hawks sit at 2-3, they have played a hefty schedule with losses to Sunnyslope, Campo Verde, and 6A team, Mountain Ridge. In what has been a tremendous junior season, Adam Mohammed has tallied 15 rush touchdowns to go along with his 724 rush yards. The defense will be relying on seniors like Michael Woods and Ahmed Saleh to put a stop to the Goldwater rushing duo.
More Games to Note:
Buckeye Union @ Estrella Foothills
The Buckeye Union Hawks are off to their best start since 2015 with their 4-1 record at the halfway point of 2022. BUHS is coming off their first blemish of the year, though, after their 47-7 loss at Cesar Chavez. They are set to take on a hungry 1-4 Estrella Foothills team in a BUHSD rivalry match on Friday night.
This is just the ninth meeting between these sister schools and Buckeye owns the all-time record at 5-3. Senior, David Fresneda, has been a tremendous defensive standout with a pair of fumble recoveries and is tied for second on the team with 28 total tackles. The offense has been dominated by senior running back, Viliami Tongotea, with 904 rush yards and 14 touchdowns alongside another 40 receiving yards off of two catches for another TD. Also, keep an eye on junior receiver, Darius Haskin, who has 623 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Estrella Foothills is led on offense by sophomore QB, Hone Wray, who has totaled 597 pass yards and 5 passing touchdowns on the season. His primary receiver has been a senior leader, Maxx Carroll, who has put up 309 receiving yards alongside four touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, keep a look out for junior, Jaxon Richardson, who has led the team in tackles and tackles for loss.
— Steven Arenas (@sjarenas_) September 29, 2022
Douglas @ Carl Hayden
For the first time in Carl Hayden’s history, which dates back to 1958, the Falcons will battle against the Douglas Bulldogs who sit 237 miles southeast of the Carl Hayden Falcons.
CHHS is just 1-3 but is coming off of a heartbreak in a 15-12 loss to Seton Catholic last week. This is a big game for the Falcons as this will be their home opener after four road games and a bye week to begin their season.
Senior running back, Jaime Zayas, has led the team in yards with his 461 rush yards and three touchdowns and has rushed for over 100 yards in two games this sesaon. Meanwhile, sophomore, Jonathan Montes, has only tallied 41 rush yards but has punched in five touchdowns himself.
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