Playoff picture coming into focus

The end of October in the White Mountains marks several seasonal changes. The Aspens and Oaks change colors, the “Old 3A East” playoff picture comes into focus and Show Low and Blue Ridge square off in what has become arguably one of the nation’s top high school football rivalries.

The anticipation for this year’s game was high. Both teams entered the contest undefeated. Just as they finished last year, Blue Ridge was ranked #1 and Show Low was ranked #2 in AIA Division IV rankings.

Other than traffic to the Yellow Jacket’s field in Lakeside, Show Low and Pinetop – Lakeside essentially shut down. The game was on. The Cougars scrapped their west coast run and gun offense this year to accommodate their athletes’ strengths as runners and the Jackets brought thunder and thunder in the form of Chans Cox and Nolan Cook who have punished defenses all season long.

Show Low had tough ground work to lay as a formidable opponent. Blue Ridge had not allowed a single point in its previous 4 contests. Show Low countered Blue Ridge’s thunder and thunder with their own punishing style from Brice Rova, who scored both Cougar touchdowns, and Dallin Crandell, who has been the Show Low work horse this year.

When the dust cleared and time ran out, the defending champion Yellow Jackets stood tall as victors 24-14. The Cougars need not hang their heads. They forced 5 Blue Ridge turnovers and did put up points on that stingy defense. It was just not enough.

Blue Ridge, now 10-0, will face another tough “Old 3A East” opponent the Winslow Bulldogs in Lakeside.

Show Low, 8-1, will host Alchesay. The Bull Dogs improved their record to 6-3 with an impressive win over Kayenta Monument Valley while Alchesay remained winless falling to St. Johns 52-6. The 6-3 St Johns team will travel to Sanders to take on Valley.

Snowflake kept their playoff hopes alive with a nice win over Cottonwood Mingus at 37-17. The Lobos are 7-2 on the year. The Round Valley Elks were not so fortunate in their playoff hunt as they fell to Thatcher.

The Elks, 3-6, now face Holbrook in Holbrook whom suffered a loss at the hands of Chinle 28-8. The Roadrunners are now 2-7. The other “Old 3A East” team, the Payson Longhorns, came out on top Friday night. They squeaked by Scottsdale Coronado. Payson, 5-4, hopes to get their record 2 games over .500 as they travel to face their Gila County rival, Globe. Globe is 6-3.

In Division VI eight man state playoffs #5 Joseph City thumped St. David while #2 ranked Mogollon had the bye. The quarterfinals get started next Friday when Mogollon hosts #7 Bagdad and Joseph City travels to Glendale Joy Christian.

White Mountain Division IV and V teams will play their final regular season games this week.