The Maricopa High School Rams [5-0 (2-0)] are looking to keep their undefeated season alive against the McClintock High School Chargers [2-3 (1-1)] on the road in Tempe Friday night.
With the first half of the season in the books, the Rams have used a balanced offense and stubborn defense to remain unbeaten. Their early domination has catapulted them to the No. 5 ranking in the initial Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III Power Rankings. If the Rams can stay in a similar or better position in the rankings, they will be one of the top seeds in the AIA Division III state playoffs and be awarded a home game for the first round.
“I don’t know if they’re aware of [the rankings],” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “We just need to take care of business one week at a time and we can’t focus on that. It’s fantastic we were fifth, but that can all change in a hurry, so the focus needs to be on what we can control. We need to focus on winning every Friday. That’s all we can control.”
The Rams want to stay balanced on offense as they have all year. Senior quarterback Aaron Owens, who currently ranks second in Division III Section I with 68 completions on 102 attempts for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns, is expected to be behind center, and the recent emergence of the team’s running game (which has featured eight different ball carriers this season) is also expected to be a major factor in the Rams’ potent offense.
For McClintock to have any chance of upsetting Maricopa they’ll have to slow down senior wide receiver and team captain Johnny Johnson Jr. Johnson currently has the fourth most receiving yards in the state with 613 yards on 34 receptions. He also plays a major role on Maricopa’s defense and special teams. He ranks fifth in the state with four interceptions, and he’s a threat to return any kick for a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams want to maintain their momentum after a dominant performance against Tempe High School last Friday. McClintock’s offense has been sporadic throughout the year, but they have shown the ability to break big plays and rack up points. The Rams will look to their defensive line to win the battle in the trenches and slow down the athletic Chargers.
“They’re a lot like Tempe,” McDonald said. “They’ve got some athletes on the perimeter. They have a first-year head coach, and he’s doing a good job. They play physical and they play hard. They play for each other, and if they come out and play physical, we’ll be in for a tough game.”
For the Chargers, a win over a top five team could turn their season around. McClintock enters this week ranked 28 in the initial Power Rankings, but they’ll be looking to showcase their potential and make a statement at home.
The game will kick off Friday night at 7 p.m. at McClintock High School. The stadium is located in the northeast section of the high school’s campus at 1830 E. Del Rio Drive, Tempe.