1. Florence (7-1, previously No. 1)
The Gophers’ lone loss comes to a top three ranked team in the 3A Conference. With only two games left in the regular season, Florence remains in the top 10 AIA rankings and is looking at the possibility of its first postseason appearance since 2017. The Gophers bounced back last week in their 48-6 win over Buckeye Odyssey Institute. Josh Jackson scored five touchdowns in the rout; prior to the game Jackson had 521 rushing yards in five games after missing a few due to an injury.
2. Poston Butte (4 -1, previously No. 4)
One of the marquee matchups in Pinal County happened last week between Poston Butte and Apache Junction. The Broncos got back in the win column by defeating the Prospectors 28-14 after dropping a game the previous week to Phoenix St. Mary’s, which has been Poston Butte’s Achilles’ Heel in recent years. Running back Gaven Thrower was a wrecking ball as he had two touchdowns and 225 rushing yards on 17 carries. The Poston Butte defense put a lot of pressure on the Prospectors’ quarterback with five sacks for 46 yards and two interceptions.
3. Apache Junction (4-2, previously No. 2)
Like the Broncos, the past few weeks have gone back-and-forth for the Prospectors. Despite some good run numbers, a combined 318 yards by running back Isaiah Savoie and quarterback Gavin Limongello, the team didn’t score a rushing touchdown. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Apache Junction as its next two opponents are ranked in the AIA’s top five in the 4A Conference in Snowflake and American Leadership Academy-Gilbert North.
4. San Tan Foothills (5-3, previously No. 8)
Senior Beau Cotherman was tired of San Tan Foothills simply being known as the school behind the mountain. The Sabercats have certainly done a great job of getting rid of the notion this year as they are ranked at No. 14 in the 3A Conference. The thing about this Sabercats team is that “down but never out” mentality that has put them over the top during their three-game win streak. San Tan Foothills has established a strong run game and it was led by Eugenio Sandoval last week against Phoenix Shadow Mountain. Sandoval rushed for 162 yards with one touchdown while his teammates added 233 yards. Sandoval, Cotherman and Elijah Fields combined for 32 tackles on defense, five of which were for a loss of yards.
5. Combs (4-2, previously No. 5)
Like San Tan Foothills, Combs has won three straight. After sneaking past Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain, the Coyotes limited their next two opponents to 23 points each in Maricopa and Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin. Quarterback Tanner Hale had a typical game last week with 449 total yards. Junior Johnathan Byaus had a monster night with four receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns. This week Combs takes on undefeated Tempe Marcos de Niza and quarterback Braesen Leon, who has a 62% completion rate with 1,076 yards, 19 touchdowns and one interception.
6. Vista Grande (5-2, previously No. 11)
Did anybody have the Spartans winning five consecutive games on their bingo card? Well, Vista Grande’s program-record win streak continues — and it could extend this week against Tucson Empire. It wasn’t a great game offensively for the Spartans last week against Tucson Pueblo as they only amassed three first downs in the entire game and 141 total yards of offense. Luckily the defense made some big plays, including a 72-yard touchdown interception by Quentin Martinez. Regardless of how this week’s game against Empire turns out, the true test for the Spartans will be next week when they host Oro Valley Canyon Del Oro.
7. Casa Grande Union (3-3, previously No. 3)
Sometimes a strong defensive effort just isn’t enough. That was the case for the Cougars last week against Gilbert Campo Verde. Grant Johnson had three of CG Union’s seven sacks, and Alex Ybarra recovered a fumble. Offensively the Cougars couldn’t string together some much-needed big plays, as quarterback Eltorna Gant led the rushing attack with 82 yards. The sophomore also threw 40 yards with one touchdown and an interception on 9 of 25 passing.
8. Sequoia Pathway (4-4, previously No. 7)
Last week could be considered a bye week for the Pumas, as they didn’t play because Winterhaven San Pasqual forfeited. Prior to that was the game against Tucson Sabino, where the spotlight was on two guys who sat out the first half of the season. Elijah Woods and Kevin Mcintosh produced the Pumas’ six touchdowns. Mcintosh rushed for two scores and 174 yards while Woods added 39 yards and one rushing touchdown to go along with his three receiving ones and 110 yards. Sequoia Pathway will have some extra days, as this week’s game is on Saturday against Gilbert Christian.
9. Coolidge (3-5, previously No. 6)
There were a lot of expectations for this year’s Coolidge team, and honestly it’s been a letdown. The only reason the Bears are ahead of Santa Cruz Valley is because they won the head-to-head matchup. While they did play the top-seeded and undefeated Thatcher, the Bears’ run game was nonexistent last week as the team combined for 27 yards. Quarterback Gianni Mascolino has formed a solid connection with Gage Froman, as six of Mascolino’s 11 completed passes were to Froman for 88 yards and three downs. This week’s game should be personal for Mascolino as he returns to Mesa Eastmark, the school he transferred from.
10. Santa Cruz Valley (4-3, previously 10)
After starting out the year 0-3, the Dust Devils have managed to turn their season around by winning four consecutive games. With a strong sophomore core, the future looks bright for Santa Cruz if they can find some coaching stability. Nathan Harris has over 1,000 passing yards while Jonathan Ramos has rushed for 536 yards and three touchdowns. Shon Luis Banda and Oryan Williams each have two receiving touchdowns to go along with 512 yards combined. The Dust Devils might be in action this week if San Pasqual doesn’t cancel on them too.
11. ALA-Ironwood (1-6, previously No. 9)
For most of the season the Warriors have been so close to winning games as three of their losses came by a touchdown or less; but as the saying goes, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” ALA-Ironwood put up 353 total yards of offense against American Leadership Academy-West Foothills. Quarterback Connor Mault completed 18 of 24 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns. The Warriors’ two final games are at home against Florence this week, and Coolidge next week.
12. Maricopa (0-6, previously No. 12)
It’s been a rough road for the Rams, not just being winless but actually being on the road for all six games. This week, however, they’re finally home against Phoenix Camelback. Last week’s match against Tempe McClintock seemed like a winnable game; unfortunately, the defense couldn’t slow down Jeremiah Latu. The Rams briefly saw the return of quarterback Devin Huffman, but ultimately it was sophomore Robert Knorr who produced the big plays for Maricopa. Knorr connected with Kyree Washington for his two touchdowns and 170 of his 214 passing yards. Ian Palm made 16 tackles, had one interception and recovered a fumble for the Rams on defense.