By Greg Perkins
Very little doubt exists that White Mountain area football teams pretty well dominate the state football playoffs, and have done so for the past couple of decades. Once again this season it appears that heading into the quarterfinal matchups in Division IV on Saturday, Nov. 10, the White Mountains will once again be well represented. Top ranked Blue Ridge, number two Show Low and number four Snowflake each has a legitimate chance at reaching the semifinal round.
The Lobos, now 9-2 after last week’s opening round win over Payson, will travel to Washington High School to take on the Empire Ravens, who upset fifth seeded Estrella Foothills by a touchdown in the first round. The Ravens come in 8-3 on the season and they do share one common opponent with the Lobos. Each team defeated Safford, with Empire winning 38-24 early in the season and the Lobos shutting out the Bulldogs in the final week of the regular season. Both teams have scored nearly the same amount of points, with Empire posting 378 and Snowflake, 384. The difference is on defense, where the Ravens allowed 297 compared to only 171 given up by the Lobos.
Snowflake has played a much tougher schedule and comes in on a seven-game winning streak. Empire has won two in a row, but that streak will end on Saturday. Snowflake is too balanced on offense and plays tough on defense as well. Chase Walden has been lighting up the scoreboard lately and the Ravens have not faced an opponent as good as the Lobos yet this season. Snowflake will move on to a huge semifinal matchup against Blue Ridge.
The Yellowjackets are 12-0 on the season and have been steamrolling everyone except Show Low, which they beat by 10 points a few weeks ago. Blue Ridge is the odds on favorite to repeat as champions and it will take an impressive performance by someone to take that crown away. The Jackets will cruise past No. 9 seed River Valley without blinking an eye. The Dust Devils won in the first round game, but their season will also end on Saturday.
Show Low’s Cougars could have a tough test as the No. 2 seed when they face Buckeye on Saturday night. Tenth seeded Buckeye took care of No. 7 Winslow in the first week rather impressively. While the Cougars are clearly better than the Bulldogs, they will face an opponent unfamiliar to them. Show Low will most likely come away with the win, but the final result may be closer than some think.
Seton Catholic is the three seed and will face a very tough Mingus team ranked sixth. Either one of these teams could cause problems for the Cougars in the semifinal round.
Based on the season performances of the eight remaining teams. Fans can expect to see three of the four semifinal teams coming from the White Mountain area. Blue Ridge, Snowflake and Show Low will all advance.
By Greg Perkins