In a usual season, week 5 is the halfway point of a high school football season. This year it is the homestretch. Gila Valley football teams have work to do to qualify for this year’s playoffs with only three games remaining.
The 3A Conference leadership voted this season to take the top to team from each region for a total of 12 automatic qualifiers. That leaves only 4 at-large teams that will make the tournament.
The Safford Bulldogs will need to win 2 of their next 3 to get into the 3A playoffs. They play Coolidge this week followed by Florence and Thatcher. Coolidge isn’t in their region but a win over the Bears this week would catapult the team’s confidence heading into the last two weeks. They are currently 4th in the 3A South behind Pusch Ridge, Florence and San Tan Foothills.
Thatcher needs to win all three of their remaining games to get in to the playoffs this year. They are currently 5th in the 3A South but have games against all the teams of ahead of them left on the schedule. The host 2nd place Florence on Friday and a win would get them one step closer to an auto bid.
The 2A Conference has elected to only take the 5 region winners as auto qualifiers for the tournament, leaving 11 at large spots available.
Morenci is currently in the driver’s seat of the 2A San Pedro with a 4-0 record but Willcox and Benson are both undefeated on their heels. The Wildcats host Benson on Friday night with the winner having a great shot at the auto qualifying spot.
Pima is looking for their first win of the season but that doesn’t take them out of playoff range just yet. They have games remaining with Tombstone, Bisbee and Morenci and wins in 2 of those games might give them enough power points to snag one of the 11 at large spots.
The 1A Conference has decided to completely take power points out of the equation this season. They will take just 8 teams to the state tournament. The top two teams in each region will earn an automatic bid to the state tournament. Each of the region champions will serve as the top four (4) seeds on the state tournament bracket, and all eight teams will be seeded by 1A Conference leadership.
Fort Thomas and Duncan both have work to do to get into the top 8. The Apaches beat Duncan on Friday to get their first win of the season. They sit 3rd behind San Manuel and St. David with games left against Valley Union and St. David.
Duncan has Lincoln Prep and Valley Union left in their regular season.