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In one of the marquee DII club matchups of the weekend, Tempe battles Red Mountain for the Arizona DII title. In their first meeting Tempe edged Red Mountain 24-10.
Both squads have consistently been the class of the Arizona conference. Sitting at 9-0 and 8-1, respectively, Tempe and Red Mountain have savaged the rest of the league. Regularly putting up over 70 points, each team has a highly explosive and talented offense.
The Tempe Red Mountain rivalry is rooted in over a decades worth of competition.
Brandon Johnson is the last remaining member of the 2002 Tempe squad that finished runner-up for the national title.
“Playing Red Mountain is always a challenge. Nothing is going to be given to you. We must do everything well, ruck well, defend well, in order to beat a quality Red Mountain Side,” Johnson told Rugbymag.
The rivalry has always been fierce between the two sides and grown since Red Mountain won the 2006 National Title.
“Anybody who is competitive wants to win a national title. The fact that Red Mountain won a national title [more] recently only adds to the rivalry.”
Johnson believes this year’s squad has a chance to make some noise in the playoffs.
“This is the most talented squad we have had in a long time. We have great individual athletes that all share the workload.”
One of those athletes includes Ryan Thomspon, son of legendary coach Salty Thompson and brother of current USA 7s Eagle Brett Thompson. Adding to the quality squad is current USA age-grade player Alex Taefu.
Prop Kakalia Pula and No. 8 Sawyer Merrill lead a strong Tempe pack but Johnson indicated that Red Mountain has no shortage of quality athletes either.
Johnson had nothing but praise for the Red Mountain Number 8, Rick Darrow.
“He has been around as long as I have and is one of the most explosive players I have ever played against.”
The game will determine first place in the Arizona conference and
give the winner tremendous momentum going into playoff time.