The 4A Conference state tournament bracket is officially set, and Coconino didn't quite get the seeding many had hoped for.
After the Panthers took a decisive 35-22 win over Estrella Foothills Friday night at home in Cromer Stadium in the play-in round, winning their first postseason game in 20 years and first-ever at Cromer, the Panthers seemed poised to earn a top four seed in the 4A playoffs.
That didn't exactly happen. Coconino, which went into the play-in round as the third-ranked team in the 4A, was bumped down to the fifth seed in the official first round of the 4A playoffs.
The Panthers will face a somewhat familiar team in the opening round in the No. 4 Cactus Cobras in Glendale. The Panthers last played Cactus in 2019 and fell to the visiting Cobras by a wide margin, 53-14, at Cromer Stadium.
The season before, in 2018, Cactus beat the Panthers 32-21 in Glendale.
Cactus has played in Cromer this season, but not against Coconino of course. The Cobras routed the Flagstaff Eagles, who lost Friday night at American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek, 45-6 at Cromer Stadium back on Halloween.
Cactus has since rolled as winners five straight including two over 4A Grand Canyon Region squads Bradshaw Mountain and Prescott in the play-in round Friday. Cactus went 6-2 in the regular season and has scored more than 40 points in five games, all wins. The past two games against Bradshaw and Prescott, the Cobras put up 54 and 59 points respectively while allowing just only 17 and seven points.
Cactus has bounced between quarterbacks all season, often using two in games. Will Galvan has been the main option for the most part getting the snaps in the last few games. But Chase Jasinski is another dangerous option that the Cobras will use -- often with Galvan as he can slot out at wide receiver giving the Cobras interesting and creative two-QB sets at times.
Flagstaff was able to run the ball well against Cactus, giving a glimpse that Coconino's stellar run attack can do damage. Friday's match-up may come down to which defense can stop prolific and high-scoring offenses.
Around the 4A
The rest of the 4A bracket landed with Casa Grande as the top seed matched up against No. 8 Peoria, which got a bye in the play-in round because Apache Junction was forced to cancel due to a potential COVID-19 exposure.
The winner of Coconino and Cactus will face the winner of Casa Grande and Peoria in the semifinals.
No. 3 Mesquite, which also got a bye due to a COVID-19-caused cancellations, plays No. 6 Northwest Christian. No. 2 ALA-QC will play No. 7 St. Mary's, the winner of which will play the winner of Mesquite and Northwest Christian.
Friday's kickoff between Coconino and Cactus is set for 7 p.m. at Cactus High School in Glendale.
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