Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite a Friday loss that dropped their record to 3-5, the Maricopa High School football team still has a shot at making the 5A playoffs.

While the top teams in the conference are among the best in the state overall, a large portion of the bottom-half 5A teams are terrible. That has placed the Rams above average despite blowout losses.

That includes Friday’s 50-19 home loss to Williams Field. Maricopa had a Jeykll-and-Hyde kind of night, with play ranging from torpid to terrific without finding a line of consistency. An interception by junior Dominic Hall in the first minute of the game, for instance, was followed by a safety and two touchdowns by the Black Hawks.

“We gave them their first 16 points,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We left at least 28 points out there.”

The Rams did not have a first down from scrimmage until only 3:13 was left on the clock in the first quarter. But they then put together a drive than ended in a two-yard touchdown run by junior Mister Chavis. By that time, MHS trailed 23-7.

Senior Ram Anton Avington Jr. got to show off his speed by scoring on a 65-yard run, helped by a surprise block by quarterback Daxton Redfern, after putting on a defensive show as well.

Sophomore Merhauti Xepera grabbed a Redfern pass from the five for the final score of the game.

“I really thought that the bi-week was a timely thing for us to really almost getting back to camp up north and kind of remembering what we committed to, what we wanted to be and just telling those guys that they’re still those guys,” Harris said. “The record doesn’t mean you’re a different person. We’ve just got to get back to doing good things. We’ve got good players.”

While the Rams could never fully take advantage of numerous mistakes and penalties by the Black Hawks, Harris said he was telling his players he was not upset or disappointed with them, but they have work to do.

Maricopa may benefit from this season’s new “Open” division that could remove two or more of the best teams from the 5A playoffs to play against the best from 6A and 4A. The top 16 of the remaining 5A teams qualify for post-season play, within the Rams’ grasp before Friday’s loss. New rankings are due Tuesday.

“But we got to go win a game, at least two,” Harris said. “If we win two, we host a home game probably. If we win one, we’re on the road.”

Maricopa plays at Casteel (5-3) Friday and ends the regular season at Gilbert (3-4) Nov. 1. This will be Maricopa’s final season in 5A for at least two years, as Arizona Interscholastic Association moved the growing school up to 6A. That move was expected, and Maricopa would rank 30th in enrollment among the largest schools.

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