It was clear before long there were four solid contenders for this year’s Class 5A flag football state championship.
Shadow Ridge, Palo Verde, Desert Oasis and Bishop Gorman all separated themselves from the rest of the competition. They also put on thrilling games when they played one another. It should make for an exciting postseason.
The flag football playoffs begin Monday with four Class 4A state first-round matchups. The 5A playoffs begin with the state quarterfinals Tuesday.
Here’s a look at how the playoffs shape up:
League champion: Shadow Ridge.
Co-favorites: Shadow Ridge and Desert Oasis.
Shadow Ridge has won the last two 5A state titles. Desert Oasis won the 4A title last season and moved up to 5A. The two teams put on a thrilling potential state title game preview when Shadow Ridge rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Desert Oasis 39-34 on Dec. 5.
Shadow Ridge’s Jaylani Palmer is a two-way threat with 26 receiving touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Desert Oasis quarterback Akemi Higa leads the state with 6,527 passing yards. Shadow Ridge will be the No. 1 seed. Desert Oasis is the No. 2 seed and has wins over the other two top teams, Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman.
Dark horse: Bishop Gorman.
Gorman is the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, but it has the most impressive win of the year. The Gaels won at Shadow Ridge 27-12 earlier this month in a rematch of last year’s 5A state title game. The two teams could meet again in the semifinals.
Potential first-round upset: None.
Shadow Ridge, Desert Oasis, Palo Verde and Bishop Gorman should all roll in their quarterfinal matchups. That should set up an exciting pair of semifinals.
League champion: Coronado (Desert), Foothill (Mountain).
Coronado has been dominant. The Cougars rolled to a 17-2 record this season and have outscored opponents 679-145. Coronado allowed just 12 points in nine league games. Quarterback Maci Joncich leads a dynamic offense with 53 touchdown passes.
Dark horse: Foothill.
A league champion as a dark horse? With how incredible Coronado has been, Foothill could be the Cougars’ toughest opponent. The Falcons earned the No. 1 seed from the more challenging Mountain League over Legacy, Bonanza and Sierra Vista.
Potential first-round upset: No. 6M Spring Valley over No. 3D Clark.
Spring Valley earned the last playoff spot from the Mountain League on a tiebreaker. The Grizzlies are battle-tested and should advance to the quarterfinals.
League champions: Virgin Valley (Desert), Boulder City (Mountain).
Favorite: Virgin Valley.
The reigning 3A state champion has faced little competition. Virgin Valley has allowed 32 points in 14 games against 3A teams. The Bulldogs’ only losses were to 5A opponents Shadow Ridge and Desert Oasis.
Dark horse: None.
The Bulldogs are in a class of their own. They blanked Mountain League champion Boulder City 18-0 on Jan. 31 and have three wins over 5A opponents.
Potential first-round upset: No. 3D Moapa Valley over No. 2M SLAM Academy.
Moapa Valley defeated SLAM Academy 18-13 last month. The Pirates should win again and set up a rematch of last year’s title game against Virgin Valley in the semifinals.