The Walden Grove Red Wolves will be the underdogs Friday as they travel to Goodyear to face the Desert Edge Scorpions in the first round of the 2018 AIA State Football 4A Conference Championships. The game starts at the typical 7 p.m. time slot.
The Scorpions are the No. 3 seed and ranked 28th in Arizona, while the Wolfpack are the No. 14 seed and ranked 71st statewide.
The key to this game may very well depend on the performance of each team’s top ball catchers. Walden Grove could pull off the upset if they are able to shutdown one player: Scorpions receiver Jihad Marks.
Marks is ranked 7th in 4A for receiving, having accumulated 689 yards and 9 touchdowns. That’s more than half of all the Scorpions’ receiving touchdowns for the season, and nearly half their yards through the air.
The Red Wolves will look to their staunch defenders, who have already registered several shutouts this season, to stop Marks. Ari Hickman, Jonny Jeffery and Bradley Capen each have 3 interceptions on the season, and have combined to defend 23 more passes.
Walden Grove will also have a great chance if defensive end Juan Ramirez and OLB/DL Jackson Edwards are able to harass Scorpions freshman quarterback Adryan Lara.
Ramirez has 10.5 sacks this season while Edwards has 7, good for the 6th and 20th best in 4A.
On the other side, the Wolfpack will be counting on the dynamic duo of Alex and Jordan Lopez to put up points, something the pair has excelled at all season.
Jordan is the second-highest rated receiver in 4A this year, coming in with 1,109 receiving yards and 12 TDS. Twin brother Alex is the third-highest ranked QB in the conference, with 2,348 passing yards and 28 TD throws.
Alex and his offensive line will need to account for Scorpions defensive lineman Nassir Sims and linebacker Cameron Steele, who come into the game with 8 and 7 sacks, respectively, good for 10th and 19th in the conference.
The offense will also need to keep tabs on safety Steven Ortiz, who has snagged 4 interceptions; four other Scorpions defenders have at least 2 picks each.
The winner will face the winner of the No. 11 seed Prescott and No. 6 seed Greenway matchup, which will also be played Friday at 7 p.m.