Two schools that have developed a rivarly over the last five years in the east, East Valley battle for undisputed possession of first place in Division I Section 3 on Friday night (Oct. 18) when Desert Ridge visits Red Mountain. It's one of four key football games Friday involving East Valley or southern Arizona schools in this the 8th week of the prep football season.
Also under the microscope this week are Highland at Basha (D-I Section 1), Queen Creek at Williams Field (D-III Section 3) and Bourgade at Yuma Catholic (D-V, Section 2). Here's a brief look at each contest:
DIVISION I: Desert Ridge (6-1) at Red Mountain (3-4) -- Offenses that tick in different ways collide in this one. Desert Ridge, with a six-game winning streak in tow, makes no secret they love to run and noone has been able to contain or slow the Jaguars yet. Junior Taren Morrison carries the mail in a big way with 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns in the books so far. Last week Morrison and fellow junior Justin Irby combined for 300 yards rushing in a 42-19 win over Skyline. Desert Ridge will need to get used to defending the pass and it begins with Red Mountain. The next two weeks the Jaguars face Mountain View and Desert Mountain, who also like to air it out. Red Mountain's offense has come alive with senior Caleb Murray-Thomas at the controls. Murray-Thomas has passed for nearly 600 yards in the Mountain Lions last two games. The teams first met in 2007 and have played five times previoulsy. Red Mountain won the first two and Desert Ridge has won the last three. Highland (5-2) at Basha (4-3) -- Highland faces its toughest stretch of the season with its next three games vs. Basha, Hamilton and Chandler. Winning one of those likely cements the Hawks a playoff spot. A victory Friday gives Highland a shot at the section title down the road with Chandler its biggest obstacle since the Wolves are also unbeaten in section play. Basha lost a heart-breaker in the final minutes last week to Hamilton, 32-31. The Bears make their living passing, but are able to run effectively for a change of pace. Quarterback Zach Werlinger has passes for 300 yards or more in four of Basha's seven games and is averaging just more than 300 yards per game through the air. His latest 300-yard game was last week vs. Hamilton. Highland needs a productive offensive night to keep up with Basha. The Hawks have played decent defense for the most part and that is their strength, but surrendered 41 points to Mountain View -- a team like Basha that excels at an aerial game. Highland likes to grind it out with running back Ryan McCord and has two large receiving targets in Jake Smith and Dusty Cook. DIVISION III: Queen Creek (6-1) at Williams Field (6-1) -- Both schools suffered their only loss of the season in the past two weeks -- each losing to Saguaro, which has shown itself at or near the top of the D-III heap at this point. Queen Creek got a schedule break last week taking on South Mountain and winning, 64-0. The Bulldogs were without junior back Weston Barlow and again withoutsenior standout Matt Guida. Guida has been a thorn in two previous games vs. Williams Field (380 yards rushing). Barlow has filled Guida's shoes admirably with nearly 1,000 yards rushing. Barlow and Guida are questionable for Friday's game with Barlow the most likely to play. Williams Field lost a shootout to Saguaro, 40-31, that saw the teams combine for nearly 900 yards of offense. Williams Field's top weapons are running back Jacob Anderson, who rushed for 213 yards on 30 carries last week, running back Josh Page and wide out Cole Forsgren. DIVISION V: Bourgade (7-0) at Yuma Catholic (5-1) -- The winner of this one will be in sole possession of first in D-V Section 2. Both are 2-0. Bourgade is already assured its first winning season since 2006 and wouldn't mind adding a couple more triumph before postseason comes in November. The Golden Eagles have gained attention with their unbeaten season last week's victory over defending D-V champ Northwest Christian. Bourgade's topped NWC, 18-14, getting five takeaways in the process. Bourgade is a run first team under veteran coach Pat Lavin. Doing most of the damage on the ground is Saul Rascon, who has rushed for 1,066 yards and 16 TDs. Last week Rascon was limited to 97yards, his first full game this year that left him shy of the 100-yard mark in a game. Yuma Catholic has won its last four games and featured a prolific offense in bouncing the former No. 1 team in D-V power rankings -- Arizona Lutheran -- last week. Carter Rodriguez (300 all-purpose yards, 235 receiving), Ricky Hampton (130 yards receiving) and Sean McKinney (94 yards rushing) enjoyed big games in the 52-38 win over ALA as did quarterback Jagan Cleary (377 yards, 3 TDs). Bourgade is likely to try and pound away with its ground game and eat clock. That could go a long way in limiting the damage the more versatile Yuma Catholic offense can inflict. The teams have met five times previously with Yuma Catholic winning all of them by hefty margins.