For the first time since 2014, both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools are coming off losses in the same week after the Pride was stunned by Desert Ridge and the Thunder fell in double overtime to Highland.
The Thunder (5-3) will carry a two-game losing streak into Mesa, but will be met by a Desert Ridge (7-1) squad that is coming off arguably its biggest win of the season after beating Mountain Pointe 31-20.
Against Mountain Pointe, the Jaguars ran a two-quarterback system with sophomore Matthew Purnell and junior Cooper Schmidt that seemed to give the Pride defense fits all night long.
The two quarterbacks combined for 108 yards on the ground, including a 17-yard Cooper Schmidt touchdown run that gave the Jaguars the lead late in the game.
Schmidt has been more effective on the ground this season, rushing for 406 yards and six touchdowns compared to Purnell’s 99 rushing yards and one touchdown. But, Purnell has been more effective through the air, completing 70 percent of his passes compared to Schmidt’s 57 percent.
While the Thunder defense will have to keep an eye on both quarterbacks, it’ll also have to watch out for the Jaguars’ trio of running backs.
Lucas Wright, Tyrese Allen, and Deonce Elliot all have been strong out of the backfield, as each one has rushed for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Tyrese Allen leads the way with 567 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Thunder seniors Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey will play a major role on Friday in stopping their running game.
How the Desert Vista offense handles the Jaguars defense will be another key to this 6A Central Region matchup. The Desert Ridge defense picked off two passes late in the game and held their running to a minimum.
The Jaguars stacked the box and tried to hold Mountain Pointe’s run game to a minimum, but look for the Thunder to rely on senior quarterback Derek Kline.
The 6-foot-5 Nevada transplant has been huge for Desert Vista all season long, throwing for 1,377 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also been great using his legs to escape pressure and run when no one is open, tallying 305 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Friday night will be a battle at the line of scrimmage between two teams looking to solidify themselves in the playoff picture. And after two straight losses, Desert Vista will be looking to come out strong and catch the Jaguars off guard.
The two teams kick off at 7 p.m. at Desert Ridge High School.
Mountain Pointe vs Corona del Sol
The Pride (6-2) will look to bounce back from their first home loss since 2011 when it takes on the Corona del Sol Aztecs (1-7) on Friday.
Mountain Pointe should be able to bounce back as the Aztecs won’t provide much resistance on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve allowed 285 points this season and haven’t won since their matchup with La Joya Community on Aug. 25.
While the Aztecs don’t provide much of a defensive resistance, they do have a high-powered offense behind junior quarterback Ryan Helt, who has thrown for 2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
He’s also thrown 13 interceptions in the process. The 6-foot-1 quarterback has thrown for at least 150 yards in each game and recently threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns against Gilbert.
His favorite target this year has been junior receiver Ricky Pearsall, a 6-foot-1 junior who has caught 61 passes for 1,030 yards and was a big part of Helt’s success against Gilbert, catching 14 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the pair of Aztecs, they will run into one of the best secondaries in the state.
The Pride secondary hasn’t allowed over 100 yards passing since their matchup with Desert Vista in the Ahwatukee Bowl.
It also has picked off 14 passes this season and deflected 55 more. Helt will run into one of the best all-around defenses he has faced this season, as the Pride boast a big defensive line led by senior Shomari Hayes along with their strong secondary.
After being somewhat silenced against Desert Ridge, look for the Mountain Pointe backfield to break out quickly against a defense that has allowed over 100 yards rushing in every game this season.
With two games left in the season, look for the Mountain Pointe Pride to get back on track before its final game of the season against Gilbert High on Oct. 27. Mountain Pointe and Corona del Sol kick off at 7 p.m. at Corona del Sol high school.
-Reach Sports Editor Greg Macafee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee