Today is a big day for the Mingus Union football team and its supporters. The Marauders head into the semifinal round of the Arizona 4A II State Football playoffs at 7 p.m. at Sandra Day O'Connor in Glendale to take on the No. 4 ranked Santa Rita Eagles.
Santa Rita has been the Cinderella team of the conference ... going from a winless season last year to being an 11-1 team this year.
"They are a fast team with an offense that averages over 30 points a game," said coach Bob Young. "Their strength is offense and we have been working hard to deal with that. We're going to have to slow them down."
The Santa Rita Eagles are no doubt chomping at the bit to see how they measure up against the Marauders. Like Mingus, Santa Rita's road to the semis has been long and hard. After winning their first game of the season, they dropped to 1-1 with their only loss to Marana. From then on, the Eagles have been perfect, winning a region title in the 4A II Gila region with a perfect 6-0 region record.
In the post season, the Eagles scraped by Coronado 38-37. Then two weeks ago, they hosted Mingus conference rival, the Bradshaw Mountain Bears and defeated them 34-20, running the fur off the big bad Bears and sending them home for the season.
"They are not very big, but they are fast and strong," said coach Young. "They handled Bradshaw well and we play similar to Bradshaw. We're going to have to continue to execute."
The Marauders have had a dream season of their own, going 12-0 so far and fighting their way through the Grand Canyon region for their second consecutive title. No team, except for the Bears has really challenged the Marauders this season, which includes the playoffs.
In the first round, the Marauders faced another team of Eagles, from Flagstaff and sent them home for the season with a 42-20 win. Then the Marauders faced the Washington Rams, who looked as if they were going to give Mingus a fight, but the game quickly became another opportunity for the Big Red Machine to sharpen their skills for the later part of the playoffs with a score of 50-20.
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the final four teams left in the 4A II Conference tournament had an extra week to prepare for the dual semifinal games going on tonight. In one half of the bracket, No. 3 Notre Dame is taking on No. 7 Higley at Tempe High School. The other game, of course is No. 1 Mingus vs. No. 4 Santa Rita.
When these two teams come together tonight it will no doubt be a great example of skill at the high school level.
Game time is 7 p.m at Sandra Day O'Connor High School in Glendale. There is a forecast of rain Friday night, which could make this important game a little bit more up in the air. If it does rain, and rain hard enough, the players on both teams could get a taste of mud, sweat and tears before the night is over.
The winner of this game will play the winner of Higley vs. Notre Dame in the 4A II State Championship game.