The high school football playoffs kickoff on Friday as the third-ranked Desert Edge Scorpions host the 14th-seeded Thunderbird Chiefs in round one action in Goodyear.
The Scorpions dipped in the final Division III rankings from first to third despite their second consecutive 10-0 regular season. An average opponent rating of -0.1648 was DE's downfall. The two teams in front of them are 9-1 but both have an AOR over seven [[ Williams Field (7.8863) and Saguaro (7.2720) ]].
Desert Edge has won 23 of its last 24 games with its lone loss 9-7 to Queen Creek in the Division III state championship game last year. The Scorpions, who remain in search of their first ever state title, are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
The Scorpions lit up the scoreboard this season, scoring over 50 points per game while giving up just 17. Elijah Marks looks to build on his solid senior year. He set the state record for receiving yards in a single-season in last week's rout of Agua Fria after posting 12 catches for 324 yards and three scores. Marks has 86 grabs for 1,802 yards and 21 touchdowns overall this year. Senior quarterback Anthony Hernandez has been terrific as well, throwing for 3,399 yards with 45 TD's and five interceptions.
After starting the season just 1-3, Thunderbird reeled off six straight wins to end the regular season 7-3 and earn its fourth consecutive trip to the state playoffs. The Chiefs were ousted in the second round the previous two years after winning their first ever state championship in 2010.
Thunderbird averaged just over 38 points per game this season while allowing 20 points a contest. The Chiefs have a balanced offense, led by quarterback Jake Gattling. The senior threw for 2,042 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions this season while adding two scores on the ground.
Darren Dorsey led T-bird's ground attack with 624 yards and nine TD's. Senior BJ Pelt and sophomore Kaleb Hofer added eight rushing touchdowns apiece for the Chiefs, who racked up over 2,000 rushing yards and 34 TD's as a team.
The Chiefs have won two of the three all-time meetings with the Scorpions, but DE claimed the most recent matchup 45-16 in 2012. Thunderbird beat Desert Edge, 24-17, in the semifinals in 2010 before knocking off Williams Field for its first and only state title.
The winner will advance to face either sixth-ranked Shadow Ridge or number-11 Catalina Foothills in the second round next Friday. Kickoff in Goodyear is at 7pm.