By Zach Alvira, GSN Sports Editor
It’s halftime in the 2018 high school football season and several Gilbert schools still have realistic hopes of making the playoffs.
Here’s a look as they embark on the closing half of the season.
Highland’s early success shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to many. It’s how the Hawks have won that has caught the 6A conference off guard: averaging more than 40 points per game.
The Hawks are in prime position for a high playoff seed, but tough games with Mountain Pointe, Queen Creek and Desert Ridge will determine if Highland is a true contender.
The Jaguars fell to Red Mountain to open the season after quarterback Cooper Schmidt was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Schmidt has yet to return for the Jaguars. Close victories over Skyline and Westview keep Desert Ridge in contention for a playoff spot.
The Jaguars have a tough road ahead with closing games against Desert Vista, Queen Creek, Mountain Pointe and Highland.
Gilbert escaped a tough, early, five-game stretch with a 3-2 record. With games against top teams in 5A remaining, the Tigers must play their best yet to sneak into the playoffs.
Their roster has low participation numbers, but among them is a group of motivated seniors ready to do what it takes to make the playoffs.
Mesquite opened with three losses, two of which were to teams a division higher in 5A. It began to turn things around heading into the second half of the season.
Three of the last four games are against middle-of-the-road opponents. A season finale against perennial power Saguaro could make or break the Wildcats’ chances of making the playoffs.
Campo Verde got off to a hot start with big wins over rival Mesquite and Ironwood Ridge. Coach Max Ragsdale has the Coyotes poised to make a deep playoff run with a roster filled with talent.
Marquee challenging games — against Higley, Williams Field and Casteel — await the Coyotes.
Since coach Steve Campbell was hired, Williams Field has been a power in 5A. The Blackhawks have made the playoffs every year since 2008, including an undefeated season and state championship in 2016.
They once again are poised for a deep playoff run despite a rigorous schedule to finish the season.
Could this be the year Higley breaks through and wins its first state title? With its abundance of talent it might happen. Higley has been tested but only once has it been by a school from Arizona. The Knights only loss was on the road at Moorepark (Calif.).
How the Knights fare down the stretch against Casteel, Campo Verde, Gilbert and Williams Field will define just how good this team is.