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Sometimes all an offense needs is a little motivation.
Thrust into a starring role in the first round of the playoffs, sophomore Rajhan Meriwether more than performed.
Turning the ball over five times and accumulating 80 yards in penalties is typically not the recipe for a victory.
Basha did its part to control its own playoff destiny by beating Gilbert, 40-14 on Friday.
Basha running back Rajhan Meriwether is all smiles after another big night in the Jaguars' win over Gilbert on Nov. 1, 2013.
Basha running back Rajhan Meriwether gets tackled by Chandler defender Jordan Hoyt during their playoff game Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 in Chandler. [Brant Clinard/ Special to Tribune]
Rajhan Meriwether, #5 of Basha, is tackled by Aaron Green, #42 of Desert Vista, during the playoff football game between Desert Vista and Basha at DV on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.
Basha's Quarterback Jake Suddreth hands off to senior running back Rajhan Meriwether in second half action against Chandler, Friday, October 25, 2013 at Chandler. [Jerry Burch/ Special to Tribune]
Basha's Rajhan Meriwether is covered by the Chandler Wolve defense while taking on Chandler, Friday, October 25, 2013 at Chandler. [Jerry Burch/ Special to Tribune]
Basha's Rajhan Meriwether scores early in 1st half action as Hamilton's Juwan Jones is late in pursuit, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 at Hamilton. [Jerry Burch/Special to Tribune]
Basha's #5 Rajhan Meriwether gets a big push from his lineman during their game against Desert Vista at Mesquite High School in Gilbert. Nov 18, 2011. Darryl Webb/AFN
Jalen Brown, Mountain Pointe: 130 yards, 3 TD...
N’Keal Harry, Marcos de Niza: 127 yards...
Rajhan Meriwether, Basha: 122 yards, TD...
Ryan Robertson, Basha: 113 yards, TD...
Joe Storm, Basha: 113 yards...
Daniel Galindo, Pinnacle: 110 yards...
Elijah Williams, Hamilton (pictured): 108 yards, TD...
Nick Colson, Higley: 107 yards...
Doc O’Connor, Basha: 105 yards, TD...
Basha picked up a nice victory this week with a 35-21 victory over Pinnacle. Quarterback Zach Werlinger threw for 396 yards as the Bears went predominantly through the air without tailback Rajhan Meriwether. Wide receivers Doc O'Connor and Jared Schmidt were both over 140 yards receiving in the contest. The Bears moved up one spot in the rankings. Basha has another big test this week against No. 4 Westview.
The Bears had no trouble dispatching Perry, 49-0, on Friday night to remain at No. 6 in the rankings. Quarterback Zach Werlinger was efficient and Doc O'Connor had a touchdown run of 87 yards and a touchdown reception of 70 yards. Perhaps the biggest development was the return of standout running back Rajhan Meriwether from injury. Basha plays Hamilton next week and will need all hands on deck.
Emanuel Gant, Jr., QB, Tempe; Tyler Whiley, Sr., WR, Chaparral; Trevor Wood, Sr., TE, Chaparral; Dionte Sykes, Sr., WR, Chandler; Mitch McCulley, Sr., WR, Chandler; Antonio Hinojosa, Sr., QB, Mountain Pointe; John Clark [pictured], Sr., QB, Mountain View; Rajhan Meriwether, Sr., RB, Basha; Elijah Castro, Sr., RB/WR, Chaparral; Cole Forsgren, Sr., WR, Williams Field; Jordan Brown, Sr., WR, Paradise Valley; Clark Brown, Sr., WR, Mountain View; Bryce Perkins, Jr., QB, Chandler.
Francisco Avitia, Skyline (pictured): 329 yards, 6 TD
Luke Quinn, Horizon: 188 yards, 3 TD
Kam’Ron Johnson, Tempe: 187 yards, TD
Paul Perry, Mesquite: 175 yards, 4 TD
Weston Barlow, Queen Creek: 165 yards, TD
Zech Gatling, Scottsdale Christian: 163 yards, TD
Truman Tucker, Skyline: 159 yards
Turrell Pietz-Noble, Mesa: 152 yards, 2 TD
Ricky Marshall, Higley: 131 yards, TD
Rajhan Meriwether, Basha: 123 yards
Elijah Castro, Chaparral: 119 yards, 3 TD
Ethan Johnson, Westwood: 118 yards, TD
Deion Warren, Desert Mountain: 100 yards
Taren Morrison, Desert Ridge: 283 yards, 3 TD...
Luke Quinn, Horizon: 187 yards, 3 TD...
Ryan Velez, Brophy: 185 yards, 2 TD...
Josh Hoekstra, Pinnacle: 179 yards, 2 TD...
Tyler Whiley, Chaparral (pictured): 173 yards, TD (3 rec. TD)...
Rajhan Meriwether, Basha: 152 yards, 3 TD...
Antonio Campanella, Seton Catholic: 138 yards, 4 TD...
Isaiah Brittain, Tempe Prep: 121 yards, 2 TD
Wesley Payne, Mountain Pointe: 113 yards, 2 TD
Justin Irby, Desert Ridge: 101 yards, 2 TD
Mason Johnson, Higley: 91 yards, 2 TD
The Bears got a rough draw in last year’s playoffs in losing the best first-round game of the bunch to Desert Vista, but they are still a perennial top-10 team these days. The biggest reasons for optimism begin with returning QB Zach Werlinger (2,689 yards passing, 30 TD, 12 INT) and RB Rajhan Meriwether (1,151 yards, 10 TD), who will lead the always-explosive offense. The questions lie most everywhere else, as a new WR corps will have to help the backfield. So, too, must the defense, and while the linebackers appear to be the strength, the Bears can’t afford to allow what it did defensively in 2012, when opponents scored 155 points in the Bears’ four losses.
Zach Werlinger, Sr., QB, Basha
There will be new aerial targets for Werlinger this season, but that isn’t expected to slow him down. The Bears’ signal-caller threw for 2,689 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year. Nate Phillips (Arizona) and Ronnie Querry (Navy) have both moved on, but in coach Bernie Busken’s pass-heavy scheme, Werlinger should get plenty of chances to work in his new wideouts. Running back Rajhan Meriwether will be back to help lessen the load, but much of Basha’s fortune will be placed on Werlinger’s arm.
No. 10 Basha at No. 2 Chandler: Two weeks ago, Chandler won 49-7 and everyone beyond Arizona Ave. shook their heads. Is Chandler that good? Is Basha that bad? The Wolves might be that good, they have been most of the season. But Basha is much better than that, and the second time around will show that. The obviously keys for Basha to pull off this upset are defense and Rajhan Meriwether. Neither of which got going in the first meeting, but Meriwether has been a workhorse since the Week 9 meeting (54 carries, 334 yards in past two games). Doing it against Chandler will be tougher than Gilbert or Horizon, but the Bears are really dangerous when they can run with even one degree of effectiveness to open up the potent passing game. Chandler’s offense may prove too difficult to stop for four quarters, and the Bears have been prone to turnovers and, at times, penalties at the wrong time, but it’ll be more like a real Chandler-rivalry matchup than the fluke of Week 9.
Prediction: Chandler 41, Basha 31
The Pioneers came close to pulling off the upset of the year against top-ranked Hamilton last Thursday. Pinnacle proved it can hang with the Division I big boys, but now it must avoid a hangover situation and rebound against a tough Basha team. The Pioneers have impressive balance this year and should be able to put up points behind running back Josh Hoekstra, quarterback Brian Lewerke and wide receiver Daniel Galindo. Basha quarterback Zach Werlinger has been very good early on (854 yards passing, 10 TD, INT), but the running game is worrisome. Tailback Rajhan Meriwether is averaging only 3.47 yards per carry, and an over-reliance on the pass increases the risk of turnovers. Basha has been an elite Division I program for several seasons, but has a couple weaknesses which need to be shored up. Pinnacle has been impressive thus far but has not been the same type of year-in, year-out contender as the Bears. This one is very hard to handicap and could certainly go either way.
Prediction: Pinnacle 35, Basha 34
-- Kyle Odegard
Braxton Barger, Chandler Prep: 258 yards, 3 TD
Jacob Anderson, Williams Field: 212 yards, 4 TD
Antonio Campanella, Seton Catholic: 199 yards, 2 TD
Adam Bennett, Chandler Prep: 170 yards, 3 TD
Greyson Boyll, Scottsdale Prep: 170 yard, TD
Rajhan Meriwether, Basha: 166 yards, 4 TD
Elijah Castro, Chaparral (pictured): 157 yards, TD
Taren Morrison, Desert Ridge: 155 yards, 7 TD
Ryan Velez, Brophy: 145 yards, 2 TD
Zechariah Gatling, Scottsdale Christian: 141 yards, TD
Christian Kirk, Saguaro: 123 yards, 2 TD
Caleb Daniels, Mountain View: 117 yards, 2 TD
David Desilva, Hamilton: 105 yards, 3 TD
Saige Waxter, San Tan Foothills: 100 yards, 2 TD
Outlook: Last season was an interesting one for Basha. The Bears finished up 7-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs, but were very competitive against the state’s elite teams. A few different bounces could have resulted in a couple more wins and a longer run in the postseason. This year’s team has the look of a top-10 squad once again.
The Bears will travel out of state for the first time in their history to face off with a top-5 Nevada team in Green Valley. Mountain Pointe defeated Bishop Gorman — Nevada’s best team — last week, and Tucson Salpointe had its way against Liberty, so Basha will look to make it 3-0 against Nevada opponents. The offense should be good out of the gate, as quarterback Zach Werlinger and running back Rajhan Meriwether have the talent and experience to lead the way. Brandon Rutt is the leader on defense, but that’s where the Bears have more question marks. Green Valley’s offense is its strength, as dual-threat quarterback Christian Lopez and wide receiver Markus Varner could be tough to contain. This one has all the makings of a shootout, and even though both teams have talented players, I’ll go with the Arizona team based on the previous week’s results.
Prediction: Basha 35, Green Valley 31
-- Kyle Odegard
D.J. Foster, Saguaro: 292 yards rushing, 3 TD, TD rec., INT