Hawks face No. 1 Chaparral in first playoff game
Chaparral quarterback Connor Brewer has 33 touchdowns and four interceptions this year and has committed to the University of Texas.
Wide receiver Davonte Neal hasn't committed yet but is rated as a five-star recruit and leads the Firebirds in rushing and receiving.
And they've lost just one game to an Arizona team since losing the 2008 state championship game to Sahuaro.
Welcome to the playoffs, Gila Ridge.
The No. 16 Hawks play their first football postseason game tonight when they head to Scottsdale to face the No. 1 Firebirds at 7 p.m in a Division II first-round game.
Gila Ridge coach Jay Denton said the Hawks (7-3) are focused on playing their game.
“They have a real good ballclub,” Denton said. “They're No. 1 seed and are highly ranked and everything. It will be a good experience for us.”
Brewer has thrown for 2,069 yards this year and rushed for another 329. Neal averages almost 12 yards per carry and has 652 receiving yards on 36 catches with a total of 22 touchdowns.
“He throws the ball real well, and we just have to keep to our coverages,” Denton said. “They have some good receivers and another good athlete named Neal who does a lot. They have a formidable line with good size and good athletes. We just have to play our game and see what happens.”
But while the Firebirds (10-1) seem poised for another playoff run and run at a third-straight state championship, the Hawks are playing a postseason for the first time
Gila Ridge linebacker Austin Moore, who leads the team with 107 tackles, said the Hawks are preparing for the game as normal, but also know what it means for the school
“It's a good feeling. It's like you're the class that's making history,” Moore said. “You're setting the standard for Gila Ridge football, just trying to make a good impression for future teams.”
The Firebirds have won 14 of their last 15 games, but Gila Ridge comes in losers of two straight, both to playoff teams. The Hawks lost all three games they played this year against postseason- bound teams.
To counteract the Firebird offense, the Hawks expect to use a hefty dose of running back Andy Meza as they have all year. Meza leads all Division II rushers with 1,862 yards, which is sixth in the state in all classes.
“It's just nice to have another game,” Meza said. “I just want to go out and leave it all on the field.”