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 Paradise Valley, where Cactus Shadows used a strong run game and its defense to shut out an injury-riddled Trojan squad, 42-0. This Friday, I'll be at Liberty to see the Lions (5-2) take on Pinnacle (6-1) in a game with Open playoff ramifications for the Pioneers. I haven't seen Pinnacle play since early in the 2017 season. The Pioneers are averaging 46 points per game this season and have a balanced offense with senior QB JD Johnson (216 yards per game and 16 TDs for the season with just 2 INTs), a Michigan commit, and senior RB Matt Goodlow (90 yards per game and 11 TDs). The only loss for PHS this year was a 2-point setback at Eastside Catholic in Washington. The biggest difference in this year's team is the defense. The Pioneers are allowing 15.6 ppg (was 25.7 in 2018). In just 7 games, Pinnacle has as many interceptions (19) as it did all of last year, when they finished 11-2. The sack total (24) is rapidly approaching last year's team (27) as well. Leading the way on that side of the ball are LB Mac Franklin (6 sacks) and SS Trevor Crawford (4 interceptions). Liberty is a team I've seen in 5 of the past 6 seasons. The Lions have a reputation of playing teams tough as they haven't lost a game by more than a touchdown since the 2016 first round of the 5A playoffs against Centennial. Fans that have attended LHS games this year, have seen competitive action most weeks with the Lions having wins over Desert Ridge (by 2) and Liberty, Nevada (by 3). Liberty's losses this year have come against Brophy (by 3) and Mountain Ridge (by 6 in double overtime). So, don't leave early! Much of Liberty's offense comes from a run game split among Jace Accurso, Joseph Forney, and QB Jonah Guevara. Accurso and Forney each have more than 60 carries and 300 yards while Guevara averages almost 10 yards a carry (392 yards). On defense, sophomore Jax Stam (who started as a freshman) leads the Lions in tackles with 42. He mans one of the safety spots and will go hard whether it's in pursuit of the quarterback or in pass coverage. It will likely take some turnovers by the Lions to score a big upset. Last year, Liberty matched up well with Pinnacle, and led 33-14 before Spencer Rattler brought the Pioneers back by scoring the game's last 20 points in a 1-point victory. Will this one have similar drama, or will Pinnacle resume thumping teams like it did a week ago (60-0 over Mountain Ridge)? Check out ArizonaVarsity.com on Saturday morning for the game recap!