Corona in elite Open Division playoffs

ORANGE CRUSH

Corona del Sol High’s swarming defense held opponents to 7.4 points a game. The No. 7 Aztecs (8-0) move on to the Open Division playoffs against No. 2 Hamilton on Nov. 27. –Photos by Kris Cartwright for Wrangler News

After Corona del Sol High ran the table Nov. 20 with a 28-7 mauling of Mountain View in Mesa, finishing the regular-season a perfect 8-0, the Aztecs on Saturday were among eight teams from Classes 6A and 5A awarded berths in the Arizona Open Division football playoffs.

The field, headed by nationally ranked and No. 1-seeded Chandler, is the best of the best in the state.

Corona is seeded seventh, on the opposite side of the bracket from Chandler. The Aztecs’ opponent, though, is no breather. They open at No. 2 Chandler Hamilton at 7 p.m. on Nov. 27. The Huskies were undefeated before dropping their season finale to rival Chandler, 34-14, on Nov. 20.

Corona del Sol’s Jake Schmitt heads for the end zone.

The winner of the No. 7 Corona vs. No. 2 Hamilton game moves on Dec. 5 to play the first-round winner between No. 3 Scottsdale Saguaro and No. 6 Tucson Salpointe Catholic.

On the opposite side of the Open bracket, No. 1 Chandler faces No. 8 Goodyear Desert Edge, and No. 4 Peoria Centennial takes on No. 5 Peoria Liberty, in a rematch of their cross-city rivalry. The winners of those two games play in the second round Dec. 5.

The winners of the two Dec. 5 games meet Dec. 12 for the Open Division State Championship at Desert Vista High’s stadium in Ahwatukee, which has a brand-new artificial playing surface.

It’s the second year in a row that Corona has been selected for post-season play. It was in the Class 6A field last year. The Aztecs also made the playoff in 2012 and 2015.

Getting into the Open Division was a nail-biter for Corona. The Aztecs were on the outside looking in in the Arizona Interscholastic Association rankings going into the final week of play. Had they remained there, they likely would have been the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A playoff field.

Several of the teams ranked just ahead of Corona won their finales on Nov. 20, raising doubts that Corona could get into the Open field.

Then, when all of the brackets were unveiled on the morning of Nov. 21, there was considerable shifting.

Saguaro and Centennial, which had been ranked well behind Corona, leaped several teams and landed the No. 3 and No. 4 Open seeds, respectively.

But Corona also leaped a few teams, including Class 5A Desert Edge, which landed the eighth Open Division seed, as well as Class 5A Sunrise Mountain, 4A Mesquite and 4A Casa Grande, which were bumped from Open Division into their respective class brackets.

Corona is the sole remaining area team moving on in the playoffs after the seasons of Marcos de Niza and Valley Christian came to an end on Nov. 20.

MDN lost to Northwest Christian, 21-7, in a Class 4A play-in game and finished 4-4.

Valley Christian was upset on its field by Eager Round Valley, 21-20, in a Class 3A play-in game and ended the season 6-2.

The other team in the area, Class 4A Seton Catholic, 0-6 going into its Nov. 20 finale against 0-5 Coronado, ended an otherwise difficult season with an exclamation point by blowing out the Dons, 40-6.

 

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