Marana schedule a challenge

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MARANA - The Marana Tigers are coming off a successful, play off season a year ago, but have to replace some key players and have a very tough schedule.

The Tigers open the season with four straight games against playoff teams and will fact some of the top players in the state.

They open the season with a rematch against Scottsdale Chaparral. Last year they traveled to Scottsdale and fell 32-9 to the Firebirds. They will have their hands full again this year. The Firebirds are ranked second in the state according to MaxPreps.com and return a number of talented players, including all-everything defensive end Craig Roh.

Things don't get any easier. Their second game is at Santa Rita and the Eagles want revenge. Their lone regular season loss a year ago was to the Tigers, in a game where their kicking game abandoned them. The Eagles rebounded from that loss and did not lose again until the state 4A-2 semi-finals.

Watch out for the Eagles' J.J. Holiday. He's one of the top players in the city and among the top wide outs in the state.

The Tigers will host Palo Verde the third week. Like the previous two weeks, the Tigers will face a playoff team who has one of the best players in the state. All purpose player Adam Hall is one of the hottest recruits in the state. He's being pursued by the home town Wildcats, Oregon and USC.

Week four will see a familiar face for Marana. It will be their third meeting in less than 12 months with Peoria High School. The Panthers ended the Tigers' season with a 30-12 win in the opening round of the playoffs and the two teams will meet on the very same field.

Peoria features a great running attack, led by Jamal Miles, a running back being pursued by numerous Pac-10 teams. The Panthers open the season being ranked 13th by MaxPreps.

The Tigers close out September by hosting Sahuaro. The Cougars won just three games a year ago, but are tabbed by many to be much improved. Last year Marana won at their place on a last second field goal and that did not sit well with the Eastside team.

October begins with a game at Desert View. This one could have a little more meaning than normal as the Tigers will face last year's offensive coordinator Marc Lunsford. Lunsford took a job in the Sunnyside school district and will now guide the Jaguar offense.

The return home to face a pesky Pueblo squad. Pueblo has high hopes this season and looks to be a team on the rise. This could be a vital battle in the 4A Sonoran Region.

The key region game will be a showdown with Canyon del Oro on October 17 th. The Dorados are coming off a heartbreaking loss in the 4A championship game and return a lot of talent from that squad.

The second to last game of the year is against Catalina Foothills. The Falcons have a new coach and a new offense, but enough talent to make them a team that could challenge for the play offs. This could be a playoff elimination game for the two teams.

The regular season ends with Cholla. The Chargers have struggled the past few seasons and 2008 could be more of the same. Their defense appears solid, but have a lot of holes to fill. Add to the fact that they will play all their home games at Tucson High and Pueblo while their home field is being renovated and it could be a long year for the Chargers.