Badgers, Bears clear playoffs' 1st hurdle
Not too many folks gave Prescott much of a chance to pull out a victory at perennial playoff power Sabino on Friday night in Tucson.
But proving they can play with most any team in the state, the Badgers pulled out a 34-28 victory in a part of Arizona where they traditionally do not play very well. Now, after failing to win a playoff game in Lou Beneitone's first nine years as head coach, the Badgers have advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight season.
"The kids just did a phenominal job," Beneitone said. "What a great effort, what a gutsy performance. These kids just didn't want to give it up. They were determined to win it. I couldn't be more proud of this group of football players."
Bradshaw Mountain also advanced past the first round on Friday night by defeating Raymond Kellis, 30-26, in Prescott Valley. During his postgame chat to players and parents, third-year coach Chuck Apap smiled for several seconds and enjoyed the moment. Then, he shared what the Bears had just accomplished.
Apap told his team that they were the first Bradshaw team to get past the first round since become a Class 4A member. He also mentioned that this team is the first to reach eight victories in a season.
Although there were many story lines in each victory, a couple of players really stood out as coming up big in these important games. Down in Tucson, Prescott's Jake Jarvis ran for four touchdowns and had a key interception late. Over in PV, Justin Kilduff had four acrobatic catches worthy of "SportsCenter" and came up big on defense on one final drive by Kellis.
Both Prescott and Bradshaw Mountain have passed the first test. How far can these teams go?
Well, the Badgers will next face Canyon del Oro and unfortunately, if you want to see the game, you have to travel all the way down to Tucson again. Coincidentally, Bradshaw Mountain will also be playing in Tucson this coming Friday with a second-round game against Santa Rita.
The 4A-I playoffs produced two first-round upsets. Besides the Badgers victory, No. 15 seed McClintock eliminated No. 2 seed Cactus, 30-28. If the Badgers can get by Canyon del Oro, the path to the 4A-I State championship game suddenly appears very possible. Either Prescott or Canyon del Oro will face No. 7 seed Peoria or "Cinderella" McClintock in the semifinals.
Just like last week, it's not out of the question that the Badgers can defeat the higher seed. Canyon del Oro is 10-1 but just like Sabino, the Dorados did not play a very tough schedule. The lone loss came to Cactus back on Sept. 14 by two points.
Those tough games during the first month are paying off for the Badgers. The players got a really good taste of what it takes to reach success at the highest level. Games against Saguaro, Chaparral, Bradshaw Mountain and Millennium may have been losses but hopefully, the Badgers learned something about themselves. In case you're not aware, all four of those teams PHS lost to are still alive in the postseason.
Bradshaw Mountain games against top opponents never get boring and fans could see another barn-burner this week against Santa Rita. The Eagles are 10-1 but have played only two playoffs teams, and beat them by a combined three points.
Bears coaches and players have their sights set high and a trip to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale is often thrown around during pep talks. It's very realistic to think that the Bears can reach the semis for a rematch against Mingus. And you know the Bears will be pumped up to beat the Marauders after losing that late lead in the last battle.
It's unfortunate that Bradshaw and Mingus didn't end up on opposite sides of the bracket because it would make a great championship game. In the bottom half, Notre Dame, Queen Creek, Higley and Buckeye hope to advance. The Bears already beat Buckeye and lost to Notre Dame on the last play of the game.
With mid-November approaching, the playoffs for our local teams are far from over. We'll see how it all plays out but this could go down as one of the most successful for schools in our region. It has already been memorable. For the first that any of us can remember, all five schools in our coverage area - Chino Valley, Mayer and Orme along with the Badgers and Bears - made the playoffs.