Arizona’s week 9 of high school football kicked off last Thursday with Hamilton thumping Basha. Friday provided a few more high profile games, some upsets, and some absolutely spectacular individual performances. Here’s a recap of the best last weekend had to offer.
Desert Ridge vs. North Canyon
Desert Ridge is getting hot at the right time. After their remarkable run last season to the state championship game, they know the importance of playing their best football at the end of the year. Against North Canyon, running back Joey Counts put on a performance that got the attention of the entire state. Counts took his first carry 77-yards for a score and seemingly never stopped running all game. With 317 yards on the ground at halftime, the state record of 380 was well within reach. He set the record in the third quarter and finished with an incredible 411 yards and 5 touchdowns. Desert Ridge won easily, 63-14 and may again be Hamilton’s biggest threat in the Division I playoffs.
Ironwood vs. Deer Valley
This Division II matchup featured Deer Valley, seemingly a team of destiny thus far, against an under the radar Ironwood team playing before their raucous crowd on homecoming night. After Deer Valley had upset Centennial, then come back to beat Apollo in consecutive weeks, they seemed primed to finish the year unbeaten going into the playoffs. In an almost impossibly high-scoring game, Ironwood came back from the dead twice in the final quarter to pull off the upset 69-68. After a Deer Valley interception returned for a touchdown gave them a 68-62 lead late, they appeared to stop Ironwood’s final drive only to see a defensive holding call on the fourth down play result in a first down. Then, Ironwood’s Matt Paparella made an incredible run, breaking tackles and carrying defenders in for a score with just six seconds remaining, sealing the win. Deer Valley’s unbeaten season is over, but this loss may prove to be a valuable lesson for the upcoming playoff push.
Saguaro vs. Arcadia
Top ranked Saguaro had one last Division III foe left on the schedule in #6 Arcadia, before facing off in a much anticipated season finale with Division II’s #1 Chaparral next week. Saguaro did not look ahead, jumping on Arcadia quickly and never letting up, due in large part to another fantastic showing from D.J. Foster. Foster broke free for a 48-yard run on Saguaro’s third offensive play, his first of 5 scores in the game. Add to that 296 total yards and you have yet another player of the year caliber game. Quarterback Luke Rubenzer also played great with over 300 yards passing and four touchdowns of his own. Arcadia put some points up in the second half, but the game was out of reach and ended 70-35. Foster now has 41 touchdowns in nine games and is closing in on the state season record of 51, set in 1997 by Sabino’s Nathan Wize.