Pedersen Prep Football Preview

It was some famous person (doesn't really matter who; since I can't really remember right now) who once said, "it ain't how you start, it's how you finish." Or something like that. This is a blog post, rampant historical accuracy is not absolutely necessary.

Anyway, when it comes to sports, there are many documented cases of teams that get off to horrendously bad starts, only to make some adjustments or changes along the way and then, as if on cue from an off-camera director (or the WWE choreographer) flip a switch and make a mad dash of improvement toward the finish line.

With that I give you the 2013 Cienega High School football team.

Left for dead a month ago, the Bobcats (3-5) are smack dab in the middle of the Division II state playoff hunt thanks to wins in their last two games. Cienega sits 20th in the latest power points rankings entering tonight's game at Desert View (1-7), and with a win there and in the regular season finale at Sahuaro (7-1) it may very well end up grabbing a postseason bid.

So, what changed? There's no fancy analytics to explain it, other than that Cienega finally started to score some points. It also helped the Bobcats were no longer facing the best of the best in terms of statewide competition.

The turnaround actually began with a loss, when Cienega fell 63-60 to Sierra Vista Buena, dropping it to 1-5. The 60 points were more than the Bobcats had scored in their previous four games combined, and since then they've scored 42 to beat Sunnyside and 57 in a victory over Nogales.

And because Cienega played such a difficult non-league schedule — its first five opponents are 27-13 — it likely has enough points from the schedule strength portion of the state's ranking system to get into the top 16 with wins tonight and next Friday.

The only catch is, it might need to finish in the top 15 to get in. That's because each section is guaranteed at least one team into the playoffs, and right now Section 4's top-rated team, Yuma Cibola (4-4), sits in 26th place.

Cienega can't worry about any of that, though. All it needs to do is win.

Here's a look at the what other local teams in playoff contention have going tonight:

Division II
No. 1 Salpointe Catholic (8-0) at No. 14 Ironwood Ridge (5-3)
No. 8 Sahuaro (7-1) at No. 18 Sunnyside (5-3)
No. 9 Tucson (7-1) at No. 13 Mountain View (5-3)

Division III
Douglas (2-6) at No. 7 Sabino (6-2)
No. 8 Canyon del Oro (7-1) at Flowing Wells (1-7)
No. 13 Catalina Foothills (6-2) at Marana (4-4)

Division IV
No. 10 Rio Rico (6-2) at No. 21 Walden Grove (4-4)
Santa Rita (3-5) at No. 11 Sahuarita (5-3)
No. 17 Palo Verde (5-4) at No. 8 Safford (6-2)

Division V
Canyon State Academy (6-2) at No. 9 Pusch Ridge Christian (7-1)
No. 16 Benson (5-3) at No. 20 Willcox (4-4)