Schools with championship pedigrees the past three seasons in D-III-(4A-I) and six of the past seven lock up this week to highlight play in Week 6 of the prep football season.
Defending D-III champ Queen Creek visits Saguaro in one of six games of note featuring schools from the East Valley and southern Arizona. Here is a look at those half-dozen:
DIVISION III: Queen Creek (5-0) at Saguaro (4-1) -- Queen Creek brings a 19-game winning streak to the contest dating back to the 2011 state quarterfinals. That loss was to Saguaro. Queen Creek has found a worthy replacement for injured Matt Guida in its backfield in Weston Barlow, who is on the verge of eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. Guida has been absent the last three weeks and adding his 115 yards rushing to Barlow's 891 the Bulldogs have 1,000 yards rushing. Saguaro always brings a high-octane offense. This year is no exception. Quarterback Luke Rubenzer is a two-way threat. The senior has passed for 1,324 yards and 20 TDs and added 379 yards rushing. Saguaro averages 55 points a game, but gets its best test since an opening week loss to D-II rival Chaparral. Canyon del Oro (4-1) at Catalina Foothills (4-1) -- Catalina Foothills is led by running backs Ian Turner and wide receiver Tommy Ciaccio. The Falcons are longtime southern Arizona coach Jeff Scurran's latest reclamation project. The Falcons were 0-10 last year and appear to be a contender for the top spot in the section with CDO. Last week CFH outlasted Empire, 14-6, getting a a pair of big plays from Ciaccio. One was an 85-yard TD reception and the other a 55-yard kickoff return that set up the team's other TD. Quarterbacking CFH is freshman Rhett Rodriguez, son of UofA head coach, Rich Rodriguez. Canyon del Oro has featured a balanced attack revolving around quarterback Jordan Closs-Lopez, running back Max Smith and versatile JJ Metz. DIVISION I: Hamilton (4-1) at Chandler (3-2) -- Hamilton put forth a valiant effort in trying to knock off Mountain Pointe last week, but fell short. Teams -- even Hamilton -- can't match the speed Mountain Pointe possesses and the overall level at which the Pride has played thus far. History says Hamilton will get back on track this week since top-city rival Chandler has never defeated it. Chandler has the firepower to break the skid, but the Wolves' defense must do enough to get the offense the ball and force a turnover or two. Chandler built a 34-0 halftime lead at Cesar Chavez last week and got backups plenty of work and rest for the first unit. Hamilton's defense is good enough to keep it in the game. A ball-control offense that does more than eat clock would be ideal to help keep Chandler's offense off the field and its record all-time vs. the Wolves unblemished. Skyline (5-0) at Mesa Mountain View (4-1) -- Skyline is about to embark on an uptick in competition and knows it. Are the Coyotes ready? This game allows a preview. Skyline's first five opponents are a combined 3-22; next five (all section opponents) are 14-11. The Coyotes lost to the Toros, 42-0, last year, but played them tough in 2011, falling in the second half, 26-14. Mountain View, coming off its first loss by a field goal (28-25) last week to Pinnacle, has played a better schedule with its first five foes going 13-12. The best team the Toros have played is Pinnacle. Skyline has been aiming at this game for a couple weeks and a win would be shot in the arm with four more decent opponents or better waiting in the wings. Mountain View is one of two Mesa schools Skyline has never beaten in its history. DIVISION II: Westwood (4-1) at Mesquite (4-1) -- Both coaches are familiar with their opponents in this one. Westwood coach Spencer Stowers played football at Mesquite. Mesquite coach Jim Jones assisted at Westwood for several seasons in the mid-1980s before becoming head coach at Red Mountain. How good are these teams? Better, now that they reside in Division II and not D-I. But are they D-II playoff material? Mesquite has wins over two D-I programs Gilbert and Corona del Sol and a pair of D-II teams Ironwood and Marana Mountain View. It's loss was to one of the better D-III teams, unbeaten Williams Field. Westwood has beaten D-I Maryvale and North, both of whom should be in D-II, D-II Gila Ridge and La Joya and bowed to oldest rival and D-I Mesa High. Mesquite's five opponents to date are 10-15; Westwood's are 7-18. Both teams are improved over what they were when the season began, but stout tests are coming in sectional play from Marcos de Niza and Campo Verde for sure and possibly Poston Butte. Westwood faces Campo Verde on Oct. 11 and Marcos on Oct. 18 to round out a tough three-game stretch. Marcos de Niza (4-1) at Campo Verde (4-1) -- Both schools face shrugging off their first defeat of the season -- Marcos to arguably D-II's best team, Salpointe. Camp Verde tried to make it two-for-two against sister D-I schools Gilbert and Highland, but Highland came from behind last week for a 27-24 win. Marcos de Niza quarterback Josh Eckley, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, gave it a go last week. Salpointe is a tall order for the healthiest of quarterbacks and one as prolific as Eckley can be. Eckley is questionable again this week. Campo Verde quarterback Luke Pineda was dinged last week and removed for precautionary measures. He has been cleared of concussion symptoms and is good to go. Campo Verde's biggest challenge this week is contending with Marcos de Niza's speed, which the Coyotes cannot match.