The first time since Shean Hilton took over as head coach in 2002, the Prescott High School boys soccer team finds itself in the State playoffs.
The Badgers feel they should've been there before but late-season misfortune always seemed to rear its ugly head. Now that Prescott is in, the Badgers hope to make the most of the appearance.
"They're ready to play. It's a soccer match, that's the way we approach it," Hilton said Monday. "Mentally, we're prepared. I feel the guys will respond extremely well."
Prescott, seeded No. 13, opens the single-elimination tournament with No. 5 Rincon. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m., start at Tucson High School.
"I truly believe we can play with this team," Hilton said. "I don't really look at power points or rankings."
The Badgers are hoping to make a dent in a sport dominated by southern teams this season.
Of the 48 southern Arizona teams in the four largest classifications for boys and girls, 27 qualified for the playoffs. Last year, only five competed for a title. In 4A-I boys, the top six seeds are all from the Tucson area.
"I don't know if there's been a power switch or transfer from Phoenix to Tucson but there certainly are a number of schools down there that have quality programs," Hilton said.
Rincon is one of those, finishing the season with a 14-8 record. Prescott comes in at 11-3-1 after its appearance in the region championship game.
The two schools have one opponent in common Moon Valley. Rincon defeated Moon, 4-0, while Prescott lost to the Rockets, 1-0.
"The word is they really don't like to possess the ball too much," Hilton said. "The kid up top, No. 14 Š he's a quality striker. He plays with one of the premier clubs in the state in the Arizona Rush."
Nogales enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed and will face Moon Valley in the first round. Cactus, the region champs, got the No. 10 seed and will play at Thunderbird.
Tonight's winners advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday at Tempe Sports Complex.