Safford girls take on No. 3 Gilbert Christian on Wednesday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford reserves bundle up to keep warm during a quarterfinal home match with Gilbert Classical. The No. 2 Bulldogs blanked the No. 7 Knights 2-0 on Feb. 11. Safford advanced to the semifinals against No. 3 Gilbert Christian at Mesa Westwood on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Thatcher boys face No. 5 Northwest Christian on Tuesday

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MESA – Then there were four left, from 49 to 24, 24 to 16, 16 to eight, and now eight to four. The four semifinalists include three of the higher-ranked teams. Top-ranked Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin takes on No. 5 Phoenix Veritas Prep at 4:30 p.m. and No. 2 Safford faces No. 3 Gilbert Christian at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The matches are on Mesa Westwood’s Brimhall Field, 945 W. Rio Salado Parkway.

Benjamin Franklin Chargers

The John Greksa-coached 6-0 East Region champion Chargers (12-0 seeding, 20.0153 rating) eliminated No. 8 Phoenix Country Day School 4-0 in the quarterfinals on Feb. 11 and No. 16 Scottsdale Christian 8-0 in the first round on Feb. 8

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Luz Mendoza (27) positions her arms to maintain balance before kicking the ball. The Safford freshman gave the Bulldogs a second-half goal, scored during the 48th minute.

Benjamin Franklin (19-2 overall) outscored regular-season opponents 78-12, with wins of 6-0 over Fountain Hills (Nov. 30), 4-1 over Veritas Prep (Dec. 7), 4-2 over Scottsdale Christian (Dec. 14), 4-3 over Scottsdale Christian (Dec. 16), 4-0 over Queen Creek American Leadership (Dec. 28), 1-0 over Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (Dec. 29), 3-0 over Bullhead City Mohave (Dec. 30), 8-0 over Queen Creek American Leadership Ironwood (Jan. 3), 4-2 over Gilbert Christian (Jan. 5), 4-0 over Coolidge (Jan. 11), 7-0 over Chandler Prep (Jan. 17), 8-0 over Globe (Jan. 19), 8-0 over Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (Jan. 23), 4-1 over Phoenix Country Day (Jan. 25), and 9-0 over Florence (Jan. 31).

The losses are 0-2 to Gilbert American Leadership – Gilbert North (Dec. 9) and 0-1 to Chandler (Dec. 28).

Benjamin Franklin has three seniors, one junior, 11 sophomores, and seven freshmen on its roster. The team includes seniors Megan Holt, Emma Madrigal, and Ava Miller; junior Jacqueline Cota; sophomores Madeline Earl, Madeline Falls, Rachel Greksa, Payton Immke, Lucy Jones, Delin Peterson, Jaspyr Rocha, Karalee Sanders, Madison Sigourney, Danica Whipple, and Chloe Wright; and freshmen Izzy Lewis, Reina Ley, Katie Moore, Abigail Papa, Grace Seever, Katelynn Skinner, and Savannah Sperry.

Veritas Prep Falcons

The Kristi Seltzer-coached 7-0 Metro Region champion Falcons (9-2, 12.0946) reached the semifinals with wins of 6-1 over No. 4 Glendale Prep (11-0, 13.9439) in the quarterfinals and 2-0 over No. 12 Queen Creek Crimson (9-1, 6.6442) in the first round.

Veritas Prep (11-2) outscored regular-season opponents 49-11, with wins of 3-0 over Northwest Christian (Dec. 5), 2-0 over Glendale Trivium Prep (Dec. 14), 8-0 over Phoenix Horizon Honors (Dec. 20), 8-0 over Tempe Prep (Jan. 11), 6-0 over Chandler Valley Christian (Jan. 17), 7-0 over Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep (Jan. 19), 1-0 in overtime over Chandler Prep (Jan. 23), 3-2 over Gilbert Classical (Jan. 30), and 9-3 over Gilbert Arete Prep (Jan. 31).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Chloe Peters (16) attacks the ball with a Gilbert Classical defender on her heels. The Safford freshman scored during the 14th minute to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.

The losses were 1-4 to Benjamin Franklin (Dec. 7) and 1-2 to Gilbert Christian (Jan. 30).

Veritas Prep has six seniors, four juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman on its roster. The team includes seniors Analie Coner, Rory Klocke, Grace Liao, Luci Marmol, Suzannah Qualye, and Kateri Tawney; juniors Alyssa Jenkins, Calyn Kinerk, Maddie Lucas, and Maddie Mitchell; sophomores Sophie Palmquist and McKenna Swonger; and freshman Regan Rassas.

Safford Bulldogs

The E.J. Romero-coached 4-0 Southeast Region champion Bulldogs (13-0, 16.5018) sent home No. 7 Gilbert Classical (12-1-1, 9.2184) 2-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 18 Coolidge (6-5, 0.7364) 5-1 in the first round.

Safford (15-1) outscored regular-season opponents 78-6, with wins of 8-0 over Tanque Verde (Dec. 6), 6-1 over Coolidge (Dec. 13), 8-0 over Empire (Jan. 3), 8-0 over Tucson Mica Mountain (Jan. 5), 4-0 over Tucson Pueblo (Jan. 11), 7-0 over Florence (Jan. 19), 3-1 over Pusch Ridge (Jan. 20), 9-1 over Tucson Catalina (Jan. 21), 8-0 over Tucson Palo Verde Magnet (Jan. 23), 1-0 over Thatcher (Jan. 24), 8-0 over Tucson Andrada Polytechnic (Jan. 25), 1-0 over Tucson Sabino (Jan. 27), and 7-1 over Empire (Jan. 31).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Elysia Barringer (6) steals the ball from Gilbert Classical junior Payton Kloepping (15).

A 2-2 tie resulted with Gilbert Christian during the Ben Franklin Winter Classic on Dec. 10.

Safford has six seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, and nine freshmen on its roster. The team includes seniors Elysia Barringer, Savanna Clonts, Karyme Grijalva, Jaylen Jurado, Olivia Madrid, and Sophia Romero; juniors Emilee Brown, Samantha Foote, Aminee Johnson, Lydia Marin, and Daisha Price; sophomores Breanna Arbizo, Giselle Garrabo, Isabella Gutierrez, Ellie Marin, Emma Motes, and Sophia Tellez; and freshmen Trinity Dominguez, Hailey Foote, Jerzi Hawkins, Rhylie Klajda, Tashoney Kniffin, Reyka Lester, Luz Mendoza, Chloie Peters, and Bianca Quintero.

Gilbert Christian Knights

The Hector Orellana-coached 5-1 East Region runner-up Knights (11-1, 14.9807) ousted No. 6 Tucson Sabino (9-3, 10.6058) 1-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 14 Buckeye Odyssey Institute (9-4, 1.5498) 4-0 in the first round.

Gilbert Christian (15-1-1) outscored regular-season opponents 77-18, with wins of 8-1 over Phoenix Bourgade Catholic (Nov. 28), 7-4 over Scottsdale Christian (Dec. 6), 5-2 over Gilbert Mesquite (Dec. 9), 3-2 over Yuma Catholic (Dec. 9), 4-1 over Northwest Christian (Dec. 12), 11-1 over Globe (Jan. 3), 8-0 over Chandler Prep (Jan. 7), 10-0 over Coolidge (Jan. 9), 4-0 over Florence (Jan. 11), 3-0 over Pusch Ridge (Jan. 13), 8-0 over San Tan Foothills (Jan. 17), 8-0 over American Leadership – Ironwood (Jan. 25), and 2-1 over Veritas Prep (Jan. 30).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Freshman Trinity Dominguez (28) moves over to alter the intention of Gilbert Classical junior Heidi Ulrickson (9).

The lone loss was 2-4 to Benjamin Franklin (Jan. 5) and lone tie was 2-2 with Safford (Dec. 10).

First-round exits were made by No. 9 Phoenix Northwest Christian (9-3, 7.8188), 1-0 to Phoenix Country Day; No. 13 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (8-4, 4.8941), 1-0 to Glendale Prep; No. 11 Thatcher (7-3, 6.8952), 2-1 to Sabino; and No. 10 Scottsdale Prep (11-2, 7.7218), 2-1 in overtime to Gilbert Classical.

The 16 state tourney participants numbered four from the Central Region; three from the East Region; two apiece from the Metro, South, and Southeast Regions; one each from the Northwest and Southwest Regions; and one independent.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Olivia Madrid (9) puts the ball in play with her sideline toss.

Safford – 2, Gilbert Classical – 0

Freshman Chloe Peters broke the scoreless deadlock with the initial goal of the match in the 14th minute. It would be all the Bulldogs needed as the defense did its job, preventing any opponent from scoring.

Coach Romero cautioned the Bulldogs of the wind conditions during halftime, advising them to keep passes on the ground.

Class of 2026 team member Luz Mendoza added a second goal in the 48th minute.

Although the entire roster did not receive playing time, all contributed to the advancement through the preparation during practice sessions.

3A State Girls Play-in Round

Two upper seeds were upset and six lower seeds were eliminated during the play-in round. The upsets were No. 20 Scottsdale Christian 9-3 over No. 13 Waddell American Leadership – West Foothills (8-1 seeding, 5.6565 rating) and No. 22 Chandler Prep 3-0 over No. 11 Thatcher (7-3, 6.8952).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Breanna Arbizo (3) controls the ball prior to passing it to a teammate. Defending is Gilbert Classical freshman Esha Bhatia (22).

Lower seeds eliminated were No. 24 Wickenburg (6-3, minus 0.4686) 5-0 by No. 9 Northwest Christian, No. 23 Yuma Catholic (9-4, minus 0.4090) 6-1 by No. 10 Scottsdale Prep, No. 21 Rancho Solano Prep (5-4-1, minus 0.1268) 3-0 by No. 12 Crimson, No. 19 Tucson Empire (7-5, 0.2485) 3-0 by No. 14 Pusch Ridge, No. 18 Valley Christian (5-5-1, 0.5117) 3-2 in penalty kicks by No. 15 Odyssey Institute, and No. 17 Horizon Honors (5-7-1, 0.5553) 3-2 by No. 16 Coolidge.

3A Boys State Tourney

In the boys semifinals, both on the Phoenix Central campus at 4525 N. Central Ave., No. 9 Thatcher takes on No. 5 Phoenix Northwest Christian at 4:30 p.m. and No. 2 Phoenix Country Day School faces No. 3 Gilbert Christian at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sophia Romero (5) readies a pass to a teammate ahead of Gilbert Classical junior Heidi Ulrickson (9).

Thatcher (10-1 seeding, 6.6939 rating) reached the semifinals with wins of 4-3 over No. 1 Buckeye Odyssey Institute (12-0, 18.4473) in the quarterfinals on Feb. 11 and 4-1 over No. 8 Gilbert Classical (11-1, 8.1143) in the first round on Feb. 7.

Northwest Christian (9-3, 10.2811) sent home No. 4 Queen Creek American Leadership – Ironwood (9-2, 11.4379) 4-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 12 Phoenix Bourgade Catholic (6-5-2, 4.3334) 3-1 in the first round.

Phoenix Country Day (11-1, 14.0594) eliminated No. 10 Phoenix NFL Yet (9-3, 5.6926) 5-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 15 Glendale Trivium Prep (8-5-1, 1.4012) 8-0 in the first round.

Gilbert Christian (11-1, 12.8951) ousted No. 6 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (10-1, 10.2811) on a 7-6 penalty kick after a 1-1 regulation tie in the quarterfinals and 3-1 over No. 14 Yuma Catholic (6-6-1, 1.7421) in the first round.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Emilee Brown (24) kicks the ball after stopping a shot on goal. The Safford junior goal keep did not allow an opponent to score.

First-round exits were made by No. 16 Coolidge (7-5, 1.2263), 5-1 to Odyssey Institute; No. 13 Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (8-4, 2.0434), 4-0 to American leadership – Ironwood; No. 11 Florence (9-3, 5.2671), 6-2 to Pusch Ridge; and No. 7 Chandler Valley Christian (8-2-1, 8.3782), on a 5-4 penalty kick after a 0-0 regulation tie with NFL Yet.

The 16 state tourney participants numbered five from the East and Southwest Regions; two from both the Central and Metro Regions; and one apiece from the South and Southeast Regions.