PAGE -- In Page's football dreamlike season full of milestones, the Sand Devils will be fixed on yet another when they take to their Cyclone Field Friday night.
A win over No. 5 seed Valley Christian (Chandler) -- Page's second over the Trojans this season -- would make 2018 the Sand Devils' first season with multiple playoff victories. The program began play in 1959 behind sons of Glen Canyon Dam builders.
Page played in 3A Conference championship games in 1975 and 1976, but only had to win the semifinal game each year to get there. Last week's win was Page's first in the postseason since 1984.
"The first time I addressed the kids when I got the job, we talked about hanging a banner," said second-year head coach Mitchell Stephens. "If we win Friday, we qualify for one. Obviously we want more than that, though."
As the four seed, Page (10-1) positioned itself for two home playoff games. The Sand Devils rolled through No. 13 Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (Tucson) 48-2 last Friday night to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Another home win -- Stephens' teams are 11-0 at home -- and Page qualifies to face its third Christian school in the tournament, top seed Northwest Christian (Phoenix), Nov. 17 in the Valley.
Page beat Valley Christian 22-15 in Page in September. Sophomore quarterback Robert Smith proved the difference, scoring on a 45-yard run in the third quarter and then tossing a 26-yard completion on a fake punt on 4th-and-14 play in the last three minutes to seal it.
Quarterback Vinnie LaGatta was 15 of 22 for 162 yards and two touchdowns in that game, his best output of the season. LaGatta also leads the Trojans in rushing, with 561 yards on an average of 7.6 yards per carry. Matt Mccreight leads the team with 40 catches for 717 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. He missed the first Page game, but helped jump-start the Trojans to average 39 points in their six-game winning streak.
"They're much improved," Stephens said. "They had some injuries last time. I think we're both better."
Smith began the season in a timeshare at quarterback with Gabe Gomez, who missed six games with a left (non-throwing) hand injury. Gomez returned last week to finish the game at QB, but Stephens said he will go with Smith Friday night.
"Gabe just got cleared last week," Stephens said. "We're going to try to keep him healthy."
Smith, the team's second-leading rusher with 891 yards, played through illness last week. Stephens noted, "Robert is so quiet that it was hard to tell. He never told me he felt bad, but I could see that he wasn't 100 percent. He's a tough kid."
Senior Kele Meredith, Page's top rusher, needs just 27 more yards to reach 2,000 for the season.
Meredith rolled up 277 yards last week, starting with an 89-yard burst that took place as lanterns launched from an adjacent park sparkled in the night sky. It was yet another symbol of a dream season.