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‘5A is stacked’: Flag football teams prepare for playoff push

The top Class 5A flag football teams will get an early taste of the postseason in their final regular-season games against one another.

Shadow Ridge, Palo Verde, Desert Oasis and Bishop Gorman have separated themselves from the rest of the competition with two weeks before the playoffs begin Feb. 13.

“The top half of 5A is stacked,” Palo Verde coach Rick Eurich said Friday after the Panthers’ 25-14 home win over Bishop Gorman. “Any one of us could be No. 1 (in the standings) or No. 4 two weeks from now (when the playoffs start).”

The playoff push begins this week when Shadow Ridge (15-1, 8-0 5A Southern League), No. 1 in the Review-Journal’s 5A rankings, plays at No. 2 Palo Verde (17-2, 8-0) at 4:30 p.m. Monday. The Mustangs have won the past two 5A state titles.

Also Monday, No. 3 Desert Oasis (21-3, 7-1) hosts No. 4 Gorman (10-4, 7-1) at 4:30 p.m. Shadow Ridge then hosts Gorman at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in a rematch of last year’s 5A state title game.

Shadow Ridge and Palo Verde already faced off in the championship game of the Mustang Rodeo tournament Dec. 29. The Panthers threw a late interception, and Shadow Ridge held on for a 12-6 victory.

“Frankly,” Eurich said, “that was a good loss … Might as well get a loss there than now.”

Eurich said the two teams know each other like the “back of our hands” with the battles Shadow Ridge and Palo Verde have had dating back to before flag football became an NIAA-sanctioned high school sport for the 2016-17 school year.

Eurich said getting the No. 1 seed in the playoffs helps, but going into the playoffs with momentum is more important.

“Once we get in (the playoffs),” Eurich said, “anything can happen.”

Palo Verde’s Feb. 7 regular-season finale at Desert Oasis, last year’s Class 4A state champion, will also be a rematch from a thrilling tournament game. The Panthers won 28-27 in overtime Dec. 28 after a 2-point conversion on their overtime touchdown.

The four teams have separated themselves in their own ways.

Shadow Ridge and Palo Verde are the two deepest teams, with playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Jaylani Palmer is fifth in the state with 25 total touchdowns and has eight interceptions on defense for Shadow Ridge, and Kyla Moore is fifth in the state with 1,685 rushing yards.

Palo Verde’s Tia Brown is third in the state with 27 total touchdowns. On defense, Alexis Manzo is tied for the lead in the state with 16 interceptions, and Samantha Manzo is tied for fourth with 12 for the Panthers.

Desert Oasis and Gorman have two of the state’s top passers. Desert Oasis’ Akemi Higa leads the state with 5,780 passing yards, and Gorman’s Avery Reed is third (3,228).

In 4A, no team has given a challenge to Coronado (14-1, 6-0 4A Desert League), which has allowed just 12 points against league opponents. The Cougars’ lone loss is a 7-0 defeat to Shadow Ridge in a tournament Dec. 29.

Bonanza (14-2, 6-0) and Foothill (10-4, 6-0) lead the 4A Mountain League and play Feb. 5 at Bonanza.

Reigning 3A state champion Virgin Valley looks poised to repeat. Virgin Valley (13-1, 7-0 3A Desert League) is outscoring opponents 509-79, with its only loss being 35-20 to Desert Oasis in a tournament game Dec. 2.

Boulder City (13-0, 10-0 3A Mountain League) is the last undefeated team in the state. The Eagles host Virgin Valley at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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