Pusch Ridge will represent the 3A South as the region champion, based on power ratings, in the state playoffs that start Friday after finishing in a three-way tie during the regular season with Sabino and Thatcher.
Pusch Ridge (8-2) is the No. 7 seed and the Lions will host No. 10 Thatcher (7-3) on Friday in a first-round matchup.
The teams played each other last week and Kent Middleton’s team beat the Eagles 41-14 at home.
Middleton, an Arizona IceCats hockey legend, is 16-4 in his second season as Pusch Ridge’s coach.
Sabino (7-2) is the No. 9 seed and will have to travel Friday to No. 8 Show Low (8-2) to open the playoffs.
The Sabercats, coached by Ryan McBrayer, have won five straight games and their two losses are against playoff teams American Leadership Academy – Gilbert North (the No. 1 seed with an 8-2 record) at home and against Thatcher on the road.
McBrayer is 36-12 in his fifth season as head coach at his alma mater.
No. 14 Safford (6-4) is another 3A South team that made the 16-team field. The Bulldogs will open at No. 3 Valley Christian (9-1).