In week nine of the high school football season around the valley, the Palm Springs Indians solidified their spot at the top of the DVL and the Rattlers and Knights inched closer to a pivotal game Friday that will go a long way towards deciding each of their playoff fates.
Here’s the next installment of our high school football power rankings:
1. Palm Springs (last week No. 1): Friday, the Indians checked off their final big regular season test in the unofficial Desert Valley League title game with a 24-3 defeat of Palm Desert. The Indians certainly didn’t play their best game of the season, but the defense, without Franklin Miller, made the Aztecs’ passing game all but nonexistent, while the offense grinded out two late scores to put the game out of reach. It’s CIF title or bust for Palm Springs.
2. Rancho Mirage (last week No. 3): With one more win, the Rattlers can go from a one-win team to a guaranteed playoff spot. The Rattlers are averaging nearly 40 points a game since their last loss and looked primed to take a big next step in the development of this program. We’ll find out Friday just how big.
3. Shadow Hills (last week No. 4): The Knights put up the best fight as anyone against undefeated Twentynine Palms two weeks ago, and every other De Anza game hasn’t been close. Transfer quarterback Seth Morales is starting to get used to the new offense, while Tony Williams begins to pick up steam. Two must-win games lie ahead.
4. Palm Desert (last week No. 2): The Aztec passing game looked shaky at best against Palm Springs, as coach Pat Blackburn switched between Brian Devlin and Matthew Fitzgerald. The Xavier Prep transfer showed his inexperience at times, holding onto the ball too long. Still, the defense put up one of the best performances Palm Springs has faced all season long.
5. La Quinta (last week No. 5): The Blackhawks finally started to look like the team we expected at the start of the season on Friday, compiling 516 yards on the ground in a must-win game against Coachella Valley. Win one more next week, and the Blackhawks get to start a new season in the playoffs – likely with original starting quarterback Michael Avina.
6. Desert Hot Springs (last week No. 6): The Golden Eagles’ playoff hopes took a serious hit with a home loss to undefeated Twentynine Palms Friday, but coach Will Littell’s team still has a shot. An automatic bid is no longer in their control, but if they can beat Big Bear next week, along with a Shadow Hills win, things could get interesting.
7. Desert Chapel (last week No. 8): With another blowout win against a Victory League foe, the Eagles certainly look like the second-best team in the league and one of the best in Division 2. Still, questions lurk about how they could match up with Joshua Springs down the road.
8. Coachella Valley (last week No. 7): The Arabs put together a valiant effort Friday against La Quinta, but it wasn’t quite enough. Their playoff hopes rest now on next week’s meeting with Palm Desert, as a win could end up forcing a three-way tie for second, with their luck resting on a coin toss. Darius Hulsey will need another strong outing.
9. Xavier Prep (last week No. 9): The Saints all but have to win Friday against La Quinta, but their offense hasn’t shown any propensity to keep up with the Blackhawks’ strong running game. The defense appears to be one of the best in the valley, but the Saints need to pull some magic to keep up when they have the ball, too.
10. Cathedral City (last week No. 13): The Lions have a bye week to enjoy their first win of the season, finally proving they can come through in the clutch late in games. They may finish the season with just one win – they face Palm Springs in their final regular season game – but Richard Lee’s program took a good step of growth on Friday.
11. Desert Christian Academy (last week No. 11): The Conquerors were simply over-matched against Joshua Springs in their final regular season game. They now have a bye week before finding out their postseason plans. Still, this team hasn’t appeared to quite be in the league of a championship-caliber team like Joshua Springs or Desert Chapel.
12. Desert Mirage (last week No. 10): The Rams finally had an off week to try and fix their weaknesses, but their closing schedule won’t be any easier, as they close with Twentynine Palms and Big Bear to try and at least match their record from a year ago.
13. Indio (last week No. 12): The Rajahs let their best chance for a second win this season slip away in the closing minutes against Cathedral City. After a tough game against Palm Springs, Indio will have a shot to get revenge on rival Coachella Valley before they leave the DVL.
14. Palm Valley (last week No. 14): The Firebirds saved their hardest game of the season for last with a matchup against Joshua Springs looming. Still, George Thomas and his coaching staff have shown progress in this team since the start of the season.