An upset victory over No. 14 Seton Catholic is just the signature win the No. 24 Eagles need to get near the bubble and into the 4A Conference playoff conversation.
The Sentinels are 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Desert Sky Region. They only share one common opponent with Flagstaff (4-3, 2-2 Grand Canyon Region), the struggling Mingus Union Marauders, whose coach was recently suspended for the season.
Seton Catholic took care of Mingus 48-23 in Cottonwood behind a strong passing attack led by quarterback Joey LaLicata, who threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns in the win. For the season, LaLicata has thrown for 1,001 yards, 10 TDs and just four interceptions as his offense has scored 20 points or more in each of its wins.
"Just solid, just disciplined," Eagles head coach Todd Hanley said of Seton's offense. "They execute. By design I don't think they try and get fancy, they just execute. Try to run the ball and throw when they need to."
Stopping the high-powered passing game will be key for the Eagles, who are coming off two consecutive shutout victories, if they want to make a late splash in the 4A Conference.
Stopping the pass has been an up-and-down issue for Flagstaff this season. Prescott quarterback Dellinger Boyd went 5 of 9 through the air for 121 yards, taking advantage of short fields in Prescott's 48-7 rout over Flagstaff.
The 48 points put up by Prescott almost looks like an outlier on the schedule, as Flagstaff hasn't given up more than 20 to any other team this season, including a shutout over Bradshaw Mountain at home before keeping Lee Williams off the board in a win last week.
"I think if we win the next three, we can get in," Hanley said. "I really do. It's tough, but based on every opponent that we've played we have a shot. I don't know the formula enough to predict it, but I think 7-3 with our schedule probably gets us in."
Assuming two, and to a less likely extent three, teams in the 4A qualify for the eight-team Open Playoff, Flagstaff's chances only get better depending how the final three games of the regular season go.
The 4A has three teams that would qualify for the Open Playoff if the season ended, with the current standings at Salpointe Catholic (No. 1 in the 4A and No. 2 in the open), Saguaro (No. 2 in 4A and No. 4 in the open) and Canyon Del Oro (No. 3 in 4A and No. 7 in the open). Salpointe and Canyon Del Oro are set to play this weekend in a game that will have some major ranking implications on the rest of the conference.
Hanley spent six years on the Seton Catholic staff under a different head coach before going on to a law enforcement position with the Casa Grande Police Department.
He was the defensive coordinator on a number of dominant Seton teams before his time in Florence -- his most recent coaching position before taking the helm of the Eagles program.
Friday's kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Walkup Skydome.
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