After a shortened, somewhat chaotic pandemic season, high school football playoffs started the night after Thanksgiving with a Peoria thriller.
The Open Division playoffs featured a tenacious battle between Peoria rivals, with Liberty defeating Centennial, 25-24. The two teams played the week before, with Centennial on the winning end in a 34-24 game.
A week later, though he was intercepted twice, senior quarterback Brock Mast led the Liberty Lions to the opening-round revenge win. Mast threw for two touchdowns, one to junior Jordon Guevera and one to sophomore Grant Bruenelle.
Late in the fourth quarter, it looked like another win for Centennial, which had a 24-17 lead and the ball at Liberty’s 29-yard line with just four minutes left. But the Liberty defense held on fourth down.
Coming through in the clutch, Mast led the Lions on a dynamic drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Josef Pennella with one minute left.
Rather than attempting to kick an extra point to tie the game and send overtime, coach Colin Thomas went for the kill. Mast scored on a two-point conversion that won the game.
While Centennial’s season came to an abrupt end, Liberty moves on to challenge top-seed Chandler, which demolished Desert Edge 52-0 in the playoff opener.
In the 5A bracket, Ironwood scored a 35-30 win over Desert Mountain. The Eagles move on to a second-round home game against Notre Dame Prep at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4.
Sunrise Mountain took down Verrado, 35-14, in another 5A playoff game. Sunrise Mountain hosts Campo Verde in the second round at 7 p.m. Dec. 4.
Senior quarterback William Haskell has led Ironwood, passing for 19 touchdowns while also being the Eagles’ leading rusher.
Cactus High looks like the favorite in the 4A bracket after demolishing Coconino, 41-7.
Will Galvan, a sophomore quarterback, leads the potent Cactus offense at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 against Casa Grande, which defeated Peoria High, 47-30.