By Brett Manney
There are major implications across the region as the high school football season winds down for many states. Hawaii and California are just starting their state playoff tournaments, while many other states are already deep into the state tournament or even the championship. Every game now is win or go home and for many teenagers, the dream will be celebrated joyfully or crushed right before their eyes.
Eagle Mustangs (11-0) vs. Highland Rams (9-2): The Milk Bowl in Idaho will be a battle between two loaded teams that are evenly matched up in this championship game. The undefeated Eagle squad looked unstoppable running the ball last week behind RB Drew McConnell. The speedy back rushed for 205 yards on just 16 carries with four touchdowns. The Mustangs piled up 474 total rushing yards, which was a season high. Highland can run the ball effectively as well behind dynamic QB Taysom Hill, a Stanford recruit. In last week's win he accounted for 373 yards of total offense, which included all of his team's touchdowns (two rushing and three passing). A ground affair is expected in Idaho to determine the 5A champion.
Arrowhead Warhawks (13-0) vs. Homestead Highlanders (13-0): The state championship in Wisconsin features two teams familiar to success. The Warhawks are eyeing their second straight state championship and are making history with their third consecutive title championship game appearance. The Warhawks rely on the run and have using it effectively all season. Last week, three different players tallied more than 90 yards rushing. QB Tom Parish is the leader and had 174 yards rushing on just 12 carries. Homestead, which won the state championship in '06, is looking for revenge after losing to Arrowhead last year. WR Mike Collins had a career day last week with six catches for 149 yards while scoring all five Highlander touchdowns, including a 99-yard kickoff return. The Division 1 state championship comes down to two old friends fighting once again for the elusive title.
Bothell Cougars (8-3) vs. Issaquah Eagles (9-2): This rematch game will likely not have the same outcome as the last meeting when these two teams met with Issaquah prevailing 24-13 in September. Both teams feature star running backs to help set up their passing games. Cougars RB Patrick Ottorbech averages 130 yards rushing a game with 20 touchdowns to his credit. The Cougars will be looking to avenge their loss over two months ago. RB Grant Gellatly is the stud for the Eagles offense and hopes to set the pace this weekend. The winner of this 4A quarterfinal is one step closer towards reaching their dream goal.
Auburn Trojans (11-0) vs. Skyline Spartans (11-0): Two undefeated squads meet up in a quarterfinal matchup to advance to the state semifinal. The almighty Skyline is considered one of the nation’s best teams and for obvious reasons. They have two stars on the offensive side with QB Jake Heaps and WR Gino Simone, a Washington State recruit. The squad's dominant defense has only allowed 39 points in eleven games and gives every opposing coach nightmares. Meanwhile, the Trojans have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Jeff Gouveia and Chris Young to pace their running attack. In addition to his offensive skills, Gouveia is the team's leading tackler as well.
Ferndale Golden Eagles (11-0) vs. Union Titans (11-0): The 3A game to watch this week will certainly be entertaining. The Golden Eagles have been dominant as of late thanks to a stout defense. Armed with fast and aggressive tacklers, the Golden Eagles only allowed three points last week. Meanwhile, RB Blake Russell runs the show for the Titans. Last week, the bruiser rushed for 154 yards and three scores against Timberland. Look for a lot of intensity in a game that will most likely carry a "ground and pound" mentality football in Washington.
Bingham Miners (11-2) vs. Alta Hawks (12-1): The biggest stage in the state of Utah is the class 5A state championship this weekend. Two football powerhouses collide in a rematch after Alta defeated Bingham way back in August, 27-19. Bingham is the hottest team in the state after starting the season 0-2. QB Jake Soffe is a great leader who has thrown for over 2,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and only four interceptions. The Hawks look to repeat as state champions and have not lost to an in-state team all season. QB Ammon Olsen is an effective signal-caller who likes to spread the ball around. He averages 225 yards passing a game and loves to throw the ball to his favorite receiver Parker Webster, who leds the team with 50 receptions and 929 yards. A colossal matchup of titans will be witnessed by thousands in this highly-anticipated matchup.
Cottonwood Colts (13-0) vs. Timpview Thunderbirds (12-0): Cottonwood comes in as a heavy favorite to capture the 4A state title, but they will have its hands full with a powerful Timpview squad. The Colts like the run the ball behind giant OL John Martinez, who is one of the nation's most sought-after lineman. Timpview’s undefeated record is no fluke. Week one was the only time they have scored less than 28 points and they have been on fire ever since. Led by a strong offensive line and an athletic secondary, the Thunderbirds look to peak this weekend. The University of Utah is the place to be when these undefeated squads battle for the championship.
Palo Verde Panthers (12-0) vs. Bishop Gorman Gaels (12-1): Palo Verde is looking to prevent Bishop Gorman from repeating as state champion in this Nevada quarterfinal machup. The Gaels have not lost to a Nevada opponent in over two years. Top RB Kawika Antolin can break off tackles and has great speed to turn the corners. The Panthers still remember last year's loss to the Gaels in the state semifinal when the Gaels scored with less than a minute to play. Palo Verde features two outstanding running backs in Chaz Thomas and Tyrone Blake, who have combined for over 2,200 yards rushing. This is the must-see game when the lights go on in Nevada.
Las Vegas Wildcats (11-1) vs. Del Sol Dragons (10-2): The Sunrise regional final game will have major implications for the state championship. A strong offensive line is the key to success for the Dragons. Last week, RB Derek Eamon rushed for 412 yards and accumulated five touchdowns for the second time in as many weeks. Wildcats sparkplug RB Reggie Bullock has over 1,400 yards rushing this season and is the main option for the offense. QB Emir Lopez has a strong arm as he has 2,346 yards passing and an explosive WR in Aaron Franklin. This game features many talented players with great individual stats, but only one team will win this crucial game.
Hermiston Wildcats (7-3) vs. Glencoe Bulldogs (9-3): The battle is on in Oregon in this Class 5A quarterfinal matchup. The Bulldogs are making just their second appearance in the state quarterfinals and hope they will advance after Friday night. Intermountain conference offensive MVP Faafiula Ena looks to make history for the Wildcats and carry his team to a win despite a defense that has been suspect at times. Glencoe is coming off a three-point win last week and hope to play better this time around. Inconsistency has plagued the Crimson Tide at times and they will need to improve or else their season is over.
Sheldon Irish (7-4) vs. Lake Oswego Lakers (10-0): Sheldon should pose as an interesting matchup for undefeated Lake Oswego in this quarterfinal clash. The Irish are the defending 6A state champs and look to repeat their success from a year ago. QB Jordan Johnson is the main focal point of the offense and can throw the ball and run just as well. He is an athletic QB who makes plays with his feet. Lake Oswego relies on their standout signal-caller as well. Jack Lomax, an Oregon State recruit, has thrown for over 2,800 yards with 39 touchdowns and headlines the Lakers squad. They are looking for vengeance after Sheldon handed them their only loss last year in the state tournament and crushing their title dreams. Lomax has plenty of weapons as wideouts Nick Rulli, Micah Hatfield and Will Storey all have over 600 yards receiving with nine touchdowns or more. A battle of epic proportions will surely be the case in Oregon this weekend.
Poudre Impalas (10-2) vs. Mullen Mustangs (10-2): Only one of these 5A teams will be handed its third loss of the season which is what neither team wants because the ride will be over. The Impalas rely heavily on RB Josh Marton, who has rushed for 1,783 yards with 23 touchdowns this season. He sets the tone for the offense and runs well between the tackles. The Impalas defense has been impressive all season as well. The 17 points they surrounded against Douglas County was the most they have given up all season. The Mustangs can put up points in a hurry, but their defense is suspect at times. Quite simply, for the Mustangs to advance, they will need their defense to play the best game of the season or else they will be sent home packing.
Cherry Creek Bruins (10-2) vs. Columbine Rebels (11-1): In the other state semifinal matchup, expect a lot of running and tough football with the winner advancing to the 5A state championship. The Bruins have been successful this year with their running attack. QB Kain Colter has filled in admirably for TJ Shantz, and is doing a little but of everything now for the Bruins. On the defensive side of the ball, Luke Flanagan has been lights out and features superior tackling ability. The Rebels rely on the run with many players getting involved. The general is QB Danny Spond, who is the leading rusher and passer for the Rebels. On defense, Nathan Wiggins is their ball hawk in the secondary.
Pine Creek Eagles (12-0) vs. Greeley West Spartans (11-1): The state semifinal in 4A will have a lot of fireworks when the two teams collide this weekend. Last week, the Spartans received another tremendous effort from their stellar defense, which returned three interceptions for touchdowns. Known for their great front seven on defense, the Spartan secondary has elevated their game in recent weeks. Pine Creek does not have one blunder on its record and for obvious reasons. This 4A juggernaut has a stellar QB in Josh Chance and one of the state's best offensive lines. Two very talented defenses will be center stage in this must-see 4A matchup.
Millard South Patriots (9-3) vs. Millard West Wildcats (12-0): The state championship game for Class A features two heated rivals in a game which could not have been scripted any better. When these two teams met on Sept. 12, Millard barely prevailed with a 15-12 victory. The Wildcats have one of the best linebacking units in the state and have not scored fewer than 29 points in two months. Meanwhile, the Patriots have regained their winning ways since losing three games early in the season. They rely on multiple players to make plays with their excellent team speed. Expect thousands to witness a classic game this weekend at the University of Nebraska with the winner hoisting four months of hard work.
Kealakehe Waveriders (9-2) vs. Farrington Governors (8-3): The quarterfinal matchup will decide who advances one step closer to the state championship. The Waveriders lost two of their first three games but have rebounded ever since. Their star is QB Jordan Ursua, who is explosive and makes defenders miss routinely in the open field. The Governors need to find consistency on defense to shut down their opponent's potent offense. This first round matchup will be played with high intensity because seasons are on the line.
Baldwin Bears (8-1) vs. Leilehua Mighty Mules (9-2): Both of these squads have been impressive so far, but only one team will see its season continue after Friday’s game. The Bears' only loss was to California power Mission Viejo and since then have won seven games in a row. The Bears need to improve their defense because they have allowed fewer than 12 points only once this season. The Mules are defending state champions and have lost their two games by a combined eight points. All-state QB Andrew Manley has a rocket arm and is averaging 250 yards per game passing. This game will come down to the wire with the loser spending more free time at the beach.
Desert Ridge Jaguars (8-3) vs. Centennial Coyotes (11-0): Desert Ridge will have its hands full against the best team in the state of Arizona. These two teams met in their respective season openers in which the Coyotes prevailed 34-7. Centennial has been dominant, allowing just 5.5 points per game and averaging 43.2 points per game offensively. Leading the way is RB John Hughes, who averages 122 yards rushing a game. The Jaguars rely on their aerial attack to defeat opponents with QB Kevin Pantastico, who has thrown for 2,700 yards and 30 touchdowns. Yet the Jaguars' best player on the field is WR/RB Chris Heldore, who is the leading rusher and receiver with 24 combined touchdowns. Desert Ridge looks to stun the world this Friday in 5A Division II action.
Chandler Wolves (8-3) vs. Hamilton Huskies (10-1): The most anticipated matchup of the 5A Division 1 state tournament so far pits two league rivals and quality Arizona programs in a fight for survival. These two teams met back on Nov. 7 with Hamilton winning 41-26. The most points the Huskies have given up all season were the 26 they surrended to Chandler, so this one could be a shootout. WR Andrew Terrell is a dual threat and arguably the best athlete on the field at both wide receiver and running back. The Wolves defense is prone to giving up points lately as they have surrended 25 points or more during their last three games. QB Kyle Yount will be counted on to control his offense and improve on his 22 touchdown passes. Tensions will surely be hot when the kickoff lights the Arizona sky.
Loyola Cubs (6-4) vs. Mission Viejo Diablos (9-1): Two of the premier teams in California face each other in first round of the playoffs. Loyola has been a disappointment this year and barely got into the playoffs with a win last week against Crespi. The Loyola offense is centered around explosive RB Anthony Barr, who averages 182 yards per game rushing on top of 19 total touchdowns. The Diablos like to find their big playmaker WR Kevin Chandler, who averages 130 yards receiving a game and has 13 touchdowns. The Diablos have the better record, but look for the Cubs to play the way they are capable of and this will be an entertaining game.
Lutheran Lancers (8-2) vs. Fountain Valley Barons (7-3): Both squads are fighting to play another week in the highly competitive Southern Section of California. The Lancers are coming off two impressive wins over Mater Dei and Santa Margarita. QB Bobby Wheatly runs the show for the Lancers, who have a balanced pass and run attack. They will face a tough defense from the Barons, a squad that allows just 13.9 points per game. The Barons look to wear defenses down behind bruiser RB Kyle Middlebrooks, who averages 159 yards per game with 15 touchdowns to his credit. A lot is at stake and now it is either win or go home for two very good football teams.
Look for Brett's regional previews each week right here at FootballPower.tv. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.