Each week, I make the trek out to a school in the Metro Phoenix area to watch, tweet, take photos, and report on a game involving 6A or 5A teams. Last week, I was at McClintock, where Notre Dame Prep used a strong second half to remain unbeaten with a 30-7 victory. This Friday, I take a break from the Open talk and look in on a game that I believe is a 5A elimination game as Cactus Shadows travels down to Paradise Valley. Making the playoffs is a big deal as CSHS has made it just twice in the last 8 years, while PVHS has been there 3 times in the same span. Cactus Shadows (3-3) is coming off its bye week and finds itself at No. 17 in the modified 5A rankings (after Open teams thrown out). A record of 6-4 is a possibility as Horizon looms on the schedule next week. It's been 5 years since I've seen the Falcons play (ironically, also at PV). CSHS has used a mixture of ball carriers to average 190 rushing yards per game. Five different players have at least 23 carries, including junior QB Jaden White (7 TD passes, 2 TD runs). Two more juniors are among the team's leaders with Chris Elletson having the most yardage (302) and Dylan Bernaud with the most TDs (4). On defense, linebacker Cole Cucitrone (6-1, 215) leads the Falcons in tackles (32) and also has 5 Division III offers. Having already been to Scottsdale, East Mesa, Surprise, Tempe, and Gilbert (twice), Paradise Valley allows me to have a "home game" as the home of the Trojans is less than 4 miles from Casa Gridiron. Paradise Valley (5-1) is coming off its first loss, 38-36 to Desert Mountain on a field goal as time expired. The Trojans average 484 yards per game, most of that coming through the air with QB Ben Finley (17 TDs in first 5 games; no stats entered in MaxPreps yet for DM game). 11 of those touchdown passes went to Caleb Diaz, who has a pair of 200-yard games this season. On the ground, Kyle Krautstrunk (13 TDs in first 5 games) has hit 180 yards twice this year. Finley, and several others were on the varsity team (and starting) as freshmen. That group has seen the win total climb from 2 to 4 to 6 in their first three years. Due to a weak non-region schedule, the Trojans are at No. 13 in the modified 5A rankings. It's pretty much a must-win because PVHS finishes with games against McClintock, Horizon, and Notre Dame. I think a 6-4 record would be good enough for Cactus Shadows to get into the 5A playoffs, but the Trojans would need to go 7-3. If you go by the MaxPreps rankings, this can't get more evenly matched as Paradise Valley is 75 and Cactus Shadows comes in right behind at 76. Last year in Cave Creek, Finley passed for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns....but also had 3 interceptions in a 27-20 loss to the Falcons. Cucitrone was playing QB in that game for Cactus Shadows and rushed for 113 and a score. Can he make the plays on the defensive side to give the Falcons another win over PV? Check out ArizonaVarsity.com on Saturday morning to find out.