CASA GRANDE — Things didn’t quite break the right way for many Pinal County football teams this season, but for a few the dreams of glory are still alive.
Three teams from the county were slotted into the state playoffs during the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s selection show on Saturday. The teams will play at 7 p.m. Friday at the higher seed’s field.
Fresh off their big upset 19-17 victory over No. 3 Oro Valley Canyon Del Oro, Casa Grande Union moved all the way up to 12th in the 4A conference after teetering on the edge of not making the playoffs at all.
The Cougars (6-4) will be traveling to Sahuarita on Friday, where they will meet a familiar foe in Walden Grove. In the first sign of the season that the Cougars might have something special in them, Union handed the Red Wolves their only loss during Week 4, winning 33-21.
Union coach Jake Barro called that performance reaching their “full potential,” which is something they will have to do again to advance on the road.
The winner of that game will then face the winner on the Prescott vs. Goodyear Desert Edge on Nov. 12.
The highest seed in the county belongs to Santa Cruz Valley Union, which came in at No. 4 in the 2A conference. Thanks to their 8-2 record and impressive wins over Thatcher and multiple 3A schools, the Dust Devils were able to secure a home game against Chandler Prep.
Should they beat the Titans on Friday, they would also host their second round game against the winner of Parker and Antelope Union on Nov. 15. The bracket then moves to neutral ground after that.
Also getting a home playoff game, though just barely so is Coolidge (8-2). The Bears had ranked as high as fourth this season, and came into their final regular season game against American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek as the No. 5 team in the 3A conference.
Despite their opponent being ranked second in the state, Coolidge’s 55-0 loss to the Patriots dropped them three spots to No. 8, which means they barely got the hosting opportunity that seemed so clear just a week earlier.
For this, the Bears will play another ALA school, this one being Gilbert North (6-3). The Eagles ended the season on fire, winning their final four games by a combined score of 191-58. The winner will likely face Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin, which beat both teams in the regular season. The Chargers will have to get past No. 16 Ganado on Friday first, though.
On the outside looking in, the Poston Butte Broncos have the most to shake their heads over. They finished the season ranked 16th in 4A, which would normally be good enough to make the playoffs. However, AIA rules state that region winners automatically get in, which meant No. 19 Glendale leap-frogged them into the final spot. They are joined by No. 22 Apache Junction and No. 29 Combs in their disappointment.
A late surge for Florence was just barely not enough, as they finished 17th in 3A. On the other end of the momentum wave, Maricopa’s second half woes finally caught up to them as their fifth straight loss dropped them from the bring of the playoffs to 21st in 5A despite their strong strength of schedule.
In the 1A conference, meanwhile, the playoffs have already been going on for two weeks. Looking to defend their state championship, Superior is off to a good start, having defeated Fort Thomas 48-0 in the quarterfinals to make it to the semis. They’ll face Mogollan at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Coronado High School in Scottsdale.