This is a week when teams get to scrimmage someone else, a tune-up before the 2018 Arizona high school football season begins.

These for the most part are modified, scripted scrimmages with quick whistles, no kickoffs, vanilla offenses and defenses and a set number of plays for first-team players.

Where to go?


Peoria Centennial, Gilbert Highland at Chandler, 6 p.m.

Arguably the top two teams in Arizona with Chandler the defending 6A champ and Centennial the defending 5A champ. Highland has made a serious turn for the better under coach Brock Farrel.

What to see: Chandler QB Jacob Conover will be making tight end/wide receiver Brayden Liebrock his primary target after Gunner Romney was last year’s go-to receiver on the way to the national bowl game. Centennial is breaking in two new backs — Tawee Walker (a highly regarded transfer from North Las Vegas), and Davon Fountain (a 1,000-yard rusher at Goodyear Millennium last season). Highland’s defense should be strong, led by free safety Kohner Cullimore.

Scottsdale Saguaro, Chandler Hamilton, Queen Creek at Gilbert Higley, 6 p.m.

Saguaro has won five state titles in a row and is expected once again to rule 4A. Higley moved up from 4A to 5A and Queen Creek moved from 5A to 6A with Hamilton trying to regain elite status in 6A.

What to see: Two scrimmages will be going on at once, two teams each taking ends of the field. Hamilton transitions to a new era under new coach Mike Zdebski, who was known for his tough defenses in Michigan. Hamilton lacked defense the last three seasons that kept it from getting over the hump and back into the championship circle. Higley is moving on from igniting an offense without play-making tailback Draycen Hall. But QB Spencer Brasch is ready to open it up with the passing game. Saguaro has a new QB, Tyler Beverett, who has great potential to be a major college leader.

Queen Creek Casteel at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, 6 p.m.

Casteel was going to scrimmage at Desert Ridge, before changing to SDO.

What to see: How grown up is the Casteel program in its first year with seniors after going 14-0 in 3A last year? SDO features one of the state’s best defensive ends in Bralen Trice.

Glendale Copper Canyon at Goodyear Desert Edge, 7 p.m.

This is the start of the Sean Freeman coaching era at Copper Canyon, where it might be more ground and pound.

What to see: Freeman will see how the offensive line and a new QB will do again a strong Desert Edge defense. But Copper Canyon’s defense could surprise with speed and toughness and mix of seniors and juniors.

Casa Grande, Tempe Marcos de Niza, Marana at Gilbert Campo Verde, 6:30 p.m.

Another four-way where two teams will scrimmage on both ends of the field at the same time.

What to see: How will Marana’s offense, under QB Trenton Bourguet, thrive under new coach Louie Ramirez? Marcos de Niza’s new coach, Eric Lauer, will have a chance to see how the players are adjusting with a little more than two months with him.

Gilbert Williams Field at Tempe Corona del Sol, 6 p.m.

Corona del Sol is hoping to bounce back from a 2-8 season in 6A. Williams Field should  have one of the best teams in 5A.

What to see: How will QB Ryan Helt and Arizona State-commit WR Ricky Pearsall Jr. (74 catches last season) fare against one of the state’s fastest and athletic secondaries, led by safety Noa Pola-Gates?

Gilbert Perry at Mesa Skyline, 6 p.m.

These are two of the more athletic and physical teams in 6A.

What to see: How will Perry absorb the loss of 6-foot-3, 210-pound Athlete D’Shayne James? Will 6-4, 200-pound Drake Lane be able to step into that role? Will junior QB Chubba Purdy be able to take over from where his brother Brock (now at Iowa State) left off for Perry? QB Steven Castle is ready to lead Skylines offense and he has a good playmaker in WR Solomon Buchanan. Sophomore QB Jack Nelson has great potential.

MORE: Arizona high school football rankings 2018: Preseason


Scottsdale Chaparral, Mesa at Phoenix Desert Vista, 7 p.m.

There is a connection to these three schools — the athletic directors at Desert Vista and Mesa. Mesa AD David Huffine once was the head football coach at Chaparral. DV AD Tommy Eubanks once was the AD at Chaparral.

What to see: How will Mesa generate offense without standout running back Kris Jackson? Who will emerge on DV’s offense? And how different will Chaparral’s offense be under new coach Brent Barnes, whose Norman North offenses let Oklahoma in passing yards.

How it works: For these three-team scrimmages, it’s Team A offense vs. Team B defense for 10 plays. Then, the Team C offense faces the Team A defense for 10 plays. Finally, the Team B offense goes up against the Team C defense for 10 plays. Then it rotates back around. Reserves players get in the mix in later rotations. 

Mesa Mountain View at Mesa Desert Ridge, 6 p.m.

These two teams will have a lot to prove this year.

What to see: Desert Ridge has always leaned heavily on playing a punishing defense and it may be giving the ball to 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior Lucas Wright quite a bit this year. Mountain View has one of the state’s better passing duos in QB Brandon Nunez and WR Jacobby Dinwiddie.

Mesa Red Mountain, Phoenix Pinnacle at Phoenix Brophy Prep, 6 p.m.

For the first time in the Spencer Rattler era, Pinnacle is not playing Brophy in the regular season.

What to see: Pinnacle QB Spencer Rattler is the top-ranked QB in the 2019 class — nationally — and he will have some different targets to get going. Brophy is under a new coach, Jon Kitna, who might turn his son, Jalen, a sophomore, loose.  Will Darren Smith, a New York transplant, be a major upgrade at QB for Red Mountain?

Chandler Basha at Peoria Liberty, 6 p.m.

An East-side team looking to re-establish itself against an established west-side team that is making the move up to 6A.

What to see: It will be curious to see how Chris McDonald transitions from Maricopa to Basha as head coach. Liberty wants to show it can be among the top 6A team in the jump from 5A.

LOADING UP: Who has the toughest schedule in each conference?


Queen Creek American Leadership at Show Low, 6 p.m.

ALA is trying to make the most of its situation during a probation season.

What to see: Show Low feels it can be back to where it was before Randy Ricedorff left the program to be AD and head coach at ALA-Gilbert.

Fountain Hills at Phoenix Christian, 6 p.m.

Fountain Hills is an improved 3A team under alum Jason Henslin. Phoenix Christian believe it has one of the better 2A teams in Arizona.

What to see: Fountain Hills has some pretty good athletes, but will be starting possibly seven underclassmen.

Maricopa at Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, 6 p.m.

Maricopa is under a new coach, Brandon Harris, who was left a lot of talent by Chris McDonald, who is now leading Chandler Basha’s football program.

What to see: Notre Dame had to replace its defense from last year’s 13-1 team so coach George Prelock will see how a bunch of newcomers come together. Harris wants to see how his players compete and match up in certain situation that can’t be simulated in practice.


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