The last time two teams from the Chandler Unified School District battled it out for the 6A state championship, the Chandler Wolves captured their first state title in the Shaun Aguano era, defeating the Hamilton Huskies 28-7 in 2014.
As the Wolves approach their second straight state championship appearance and third in four years, they’ll have a different CUSD school to worry about as the Perry Pumas are making their first state championship appearance in school history.
“It’s been our goal since freshman year (the class of 2018),” said senior quarterback Brock Purdy. “We’ve always had that driving force to get to a state championship and we wanted it last year and obviously got knocked out by these guys. But, to finally be here and make school history is very special.”
The Wolves ended the Pumas’s hopes last year in a 62-20 blowout before beating Mountain Pointe to capture their second title in three years. The Pumas learned from that loss last year and improved, both offensively and defensively heading into the 2017 season.
That improved defense only allowed 319 points in 2017 while picking off eight passes and sackig opposing quarterbacks 28 times. Through 13 games this season, the Pumas were able to hold all of their opponents in check, other than one.
On October 6, after battling with injuries in the beginning of the season, Chandler handed Perry their first loss of the season. Returning from a shoulder injury, starting quarterback Jacob Conover threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns and running back Drake Anderson ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns.
“They just wanted it more than us honestly,” Purdy said. “They were in spots that we wanted to run our plays and things like that and they caught us off balance and off guard and got through the line a couple times.”
After starting the season off on fire, Purdy was held to a season low 192 passing yards and carried the ball 21 times for 79 yards as the Chandler defense contained one of the top quarterbacks in the state. Chandler defensive lineman, Chris Manoa, racked up three sacks the first go-around and respects the play of the Perry quarterback but said they were just able to hold him in check.
“I think the d line last game were able to get through and bottle him,” Manoa said.
Even though the score was high, the defenses played a big role in the regular season meeting because stopping either of these high-scoring offenses is a demanding task that no opponent has been able to figure out.
To add to that difficult task, facing the same team twice is another problem that both teams will face when they meet at the University of Arizona stadium in Tucson on December 2. Perry Head Coach Preston Jones compared the task to a chess match.
“You always have to try to think if they are going to do the same thing, or change things up,” Jones said. “They’re gonna look at what was successful and what wasn’t successful.”
From the last match-up it looked like everything was working for the Chandler offense. Both Anderson and DeCarlos Brooks ran for over 100 yards and at least one score. And they have since showed they can do it all.
Conover has thrown for at least 300 yards in all but one of his last five games and recently threw for seven touchdowns and 368 yards against Red Mountain. And in that one game, a quarterfinal matchup with Pinnacle, Anderson ran for 281 yards and five scores.
Despite their matchup with Chandler, the Pumas have had everything working for them as well. Other than a 237 yard and four touchdown performance against Boulder Creek in the first round, Purdy has thrown for 300 yards in every game since Chandler. He even threw for 512 yards and six touchdowns against Hamilton in their quarter-finals matchup.
Although the two teams display high-scoring offenses and have two of the best quarterbacks in the state, both Jones and Chandler head coach Shaun Aguano believes this game will come down to the defenses.
“We have to come in and try to contain Perry’s offense and they probably say the same thing about containing our offense,” Aguano said. “So, I think whoever makes the least mistakes will win the game.”
“You don’t hear a lot about Chandler’s defense because of their offense and their offensive weapons,” Jones said. “But, I think their defense is probably the best defense in the state of Arizona. They have unbelievable players over there and their scheme. I think it’s going to come down to which defense is going to be able to make some stops.”
One team is going for their first state championship in school history, while the other is going for their second straight. The winner will be decided Saturday evening in Tucson.