Highland’s tough task vs. Desert Mountain
This interesting 2012 season rolls on, as suddenly an otherwise-odd matchup of Highland at Desert Mountain is now loaded with curiosities.
Desert Mountain is the lone undefeated team left in Division I football – who had that in their office pick ‘em pool? – and the Wolves will get another good test on Friday night against the Hawks.
It won’t be, however, without its difficulties. Running back/defensive back/returner JR Brletic is out 3-4 weeks after suffering broken ribs against Basha.
Brletic has rushed for 288 yards and three touchdowns this season, is also one of the team’s top defensive backs with 24 tackles and two passes defended, punts and is the punt returner.
Besides QB Blake Young, Ray Berry also sees significant action out of the backfield for the Hawks (4-2), as will Ryan McCord, who will return to action after he missed time with a shoulder injury. McCord and Brletic split reps during practice prior to the injuries.
Still, the loss of Brletic is a difficult one for a team trying to close in on a playoff spot.
Highland, however, has played well since a blowout loss to Desert Ridge, including taking Basha and its power offense down to the final minutes in the Hawks’ 21-17 loss. They beat Skyline, 28-0, last week.
“Our kids think we can play with everybody, but it’s difficult in the East Valley,” Hawks coach Pete Wahlheim said. “It’s not like we haven’t played good teams to this point. We’ve been able to run the ball and we have our offensive line intact. When we run the ball and play defense we’re going to be tough to beat.”
The Hawks will need to do both if they want to knock the Wolves (6-0) from the unbeaten ranks. Besides the passing connection of quarterback Kyle Allen (69 percent completion, 1,559 yards, 22 TDs, 5 INT) to Mark Andrews (40 rec., 779 yards, 13 TD), the Wolves have gotten a lift from WR Cody Erickson and the running game with Adam Cooper (592 yards, 10 TD).
Desert Mountain’s defense held on by a yard against Chaparral, did something close to the same in a comeback against Notre Dame after the Wolves held a big lead early, and survived offensive sluggishness at times against Phoenix North Canyon last week. Joe Duran, Greg Frasco and Steven Campbell will have a big hand in trying to stop Highland’s running attack.
“Everyone wants to focus on the QB (Allen) and WR (Andrews) but they’re a good football team,” Wahlheim said. “We’re not going to do anything special, just what we’ve done to get here like we always have.”