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Basha quarterback Zach Werlinger spent most of the night running away from the Chandler defense Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 in Chandler. [Brant Clinard/ Special to Tribune]
Chandler's Jefferson Hunt sacks Basha quarterback Zach Werlinger during their Div. I quarterfinals game on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 in Chandler. [Brant Clinard/ Special to Tribune]
Chandler could do no wrong in the first half Friday night.
Survive and advance is a popular mantra adopted this time of year — and for good reason.
As Basha amassed nearly unfathomable yardage totals Friday night, the one thing looming over the Bears, threatening to cast for naught nearly 700 yards of offense, was a missed extra point midway through the second quarter.
Basha did its part to control its own playoff destiny by beating Gilbert, 40-14 on Friday.
The Chandler football team is the undisputed king of its city this year.
John Clark, Mountain View (pictured): 423 yards, 5 TD
Kyle Allen, Desert Mountain: 355 yards, 5 TD, rush TD
Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Paradise Valley: 354 yard, 3 TD
Brian Lewerke, Pinnacle: 304 yards, 4 TD
Dalton Sneed, Horizon: 267 yards, 2 TD, rush TD
Bryce Perkins, Chandler: 247 yards, TD, 2 rush TD
Kyle Johnson, Seton Catholic: 239 yards, 5 TD
Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro: 230 yards, 6 TD
Jeddediah Fagg, Williams Field: 227 yards, 3 TD
Antonio Hinojosa, Mountain Pointe: 199 yards, 4 TD
Zach Werlinger, Basha: 185 yards, 3 TD
Jack Johnson, Scottsdale Christian: 178 yards, 4 TD
Sam Sasso, Hamilton: 111 yards, 4 TD
Highland coach Pete Wahlheim paced lightly in the end zone after he spoke to his players on Friday night. He was in his thoughts as he waited for the regular post-game pomp and circumstance in the form of a brief chat with visiting reporters.
Basha's Zach Werlinger is airborn as reach the 32 yard line for a first down againt host Hamilton, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. [Jerry Burch/Special to Tribune]
The Bears came very close to knocking off Hamilton for the first time in their history, but fell short, 32-31. Quarterback Zach Werlinger does a tremendous job taking care of the football despite being asked to throw 35-40 times per game. Basha might not be an elite Division I team, but it's right in that next tier. The Bears remain at No. 6 despite the loss because they gave Hamilton all it could handle.
Bailey Anderson, Gilbert Christian: 551 yards, 10 TD...
Tyler Bloom, Higley: 315 yards, 5 TD...
Zach Werlinger, Basha (pictured): 304 yards, 2 TD, 2 rush TD...
John Clark, Mountain View: 294 yards, TD...
Nick Smith, Scottsdale Prep: 264 yards, 5 TD...
Josh Eckley, Marcos de Niza: 263 yards, 5 TD...
Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro: 261 yards, 2 TD...
Kyle Johnson, Seton Catholic: 228 yards, 3 TD...
Payton Haslam, Mesquite: 214 yards, 2 TD...
Caleb Murray-Thomas, Red Mountain: 211 yards, 2 TD...
Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Paradise Valley: 191 yards, 4 TD...
Blake Young, Highland: 185 yards, TD...
Kyle Allen, Desert Mountain: 183 yards, 3 TD
Brandon Haagsma, Valley Christian: 126 yards, 4 TD...
These teams faced off in a memorable shootout in 2012, as Basha jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead but watched as Chandler scored 41 second-half points to secure a 10-point win. The Wolves will be favored in this one, especially coming off a victory over Hamilton a few weeks back. Chandler’s offense may be even more explosive than last year behind QB Bryce Perkins, RB Chase Lucas, WR Mitch McCulley, WR Dionte Sykes and WR Elijah Sykes, while Basha should be able to put up points as well led by quarterback Zach Werlinger and wide receiver Doc O’Connor. It should be another entertaining showdown, but Chandler’s vast array of weapons on offense may be too much for the Bears to slow down.
Prediction: Chandler 45, Basha 38
-- Kyle Odegard
Basha's Zach Werlinger dives for the end zone in the second half against Hamilton, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 in Chandler. [Jerry Burch/Special to Tribune]
Basha nearly knocked off Hamilton last week but ended up falling, 32-31. The Bears have been competitive against everyone on their schedule but are 4-3 with losses to Centennial, Westview and Hamilton. Quarterback Zach Werlinger has been very impressive this season but faces a tough Highland defense, led by ballhawk Chip White in the secondary. If the Hawks can force some turnovers, they have a shot to pull off the upset. Highland is 5-2, but its two games after this are Chandler and Hamilton, so a win here would be a big help for its playoff chances. The Hawks should hang tough, but Basha's offensive firepower may win out in the end.
Prediction: Basha 27, Highland 20
-- Kyle Odegard
Evidently the Hamilton football program is not a fan of sequels.
Dalton Sneed, Horizon (pictured): 363 yards, 7 TD
Kyle Allen, Desert Mountain: 350 yards, 2 TD
Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro: 327 yards, 3 TD, TD run
John Clark, Mountain View: 293 yards, 4 TD
Emanuel Gant, Tempe: 272 yards, 5 TD
Tyler Bloom, Higley: 270 yards, 4 TD
Kyle Johnson, Seton Catholic: 249 yards, 5 TD, 2 TD runs
Jeddediah Fagg, Williams Field: 210 yards, 3 TD
Peter Campbell, Arcadia: 205 yards, 2 TD
Zach Werlinger, Basha: 200 yards, 2 TD, TD run
Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Paradise Valley: 198 yards, 3 TD
Luke Pineda, Campo Verde: 160 yards, 2 TD, TD run
Chandler Fox, Chaparral: 149 yards, 3 TD
No. 10 Basha at No. 7 Horizon: A modern-day, hooray-for-offense fan’s dream. These two teams could combine to score 90 without flinching. Leading by 14 or even 21 points within most any stretch of the game won’t matter much. Who’s going to stop who, when, and how often? Zach Werlinger is slinging the ball as well as anyone in the East Valley this season (62 percent completions, 22 touchdowns, 8 interceptions) throwing to Doc O’Connor, Ryan Robertson and Joe Storm, and Rajhan Meriwether has gotten the running game going the past three weeks. Still, a win over Gilbert doesn’t make all the world better after a three-game losing streak, and the Bears’ defense is going to get plenty of help from the offense. Can the ‘D’ do the job? Horizon (pictured in white) isn’t real big up front, but the skill position kids and run-pass balance is difficult to stop. It’s last team standing in this one, and the Huskies best hope is to stuff Basha’s running game, though it didn’t work against Pinnacle and Marcos de Niza in losses. Pinnacle was the best among common opponents (Basha beat Pinnacle 35-21, Horizon lost to Pinnacle 49-39) but the Pioneers didn’t play well against Basha and committed turnovers. If Basha wins the plus-minus battle, it wins the game. If not, some defensive players are going to be pretty wiped out.
Prediction: Horizon 44, Basha 38
Basha used a steady passing attack and a stout defense to rout Perry 49-0 Friday night.
Basha coach Bernie Busken and Avondale Westview counterpart Jeff Bowen watched the same game Friday night. The only difference was they were on opposite sidelines at Basha.
Basha fell behind Avondale Westview on Friday night and rallied to within three points late in the game but could not complete the comeback. The team's run defense didn't perform very well, and while quarterback Zach Werlinger had a nice game, it wasn't enough. The Bears remain at No. 6 because the loss was to a quality Knights' squad.
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.
Is Hamilton in full-fledged panic mode? Not likely, but it’s clear this hasn’t been Hamilton teams of yore. The offensive struggles have been well-documented, even with all the injuries, and the special teams’ struggles have been the most surprising. The question here, though, is how well that aligns with Basha’s strong passing game and (at times) suspect running game and defense. Again, the Huskies are going to play keep-away by grinding out 4, 5, 6 yards per carry and keep Zach Werlinger’s potent passing attack on the sidelines. Basha’s offense, however, isn’t quite as randomly explosive as Chandler or even Mountain Pointe, and the Huskies’ defense – provided it’s not on the field the entire game again – better aligns in defending the pass. If Basha’s Rajhan Meriwether continues to get back up to speed after returning from a hamstring injury last week, then Basha’s balance will cause problems for Hamilton. The Bears are looking for their first win in school history against Hamilton (similar to Chandler’s feat last week) but not just yet...
Prediction: Hamilton 20, Basha 17
-- Mark Heller
Basha made a big statement with a 35-21 win over Pinnacle last week. Quarterback Zach Werlinger was very impressive, but the most notable development was the Bears’ stout run defense against Pioneers star rusher Josh Hoekstra, who amassed just 45 yards on 20 carries. Westview is very run heavy, and while the Bears aren’t expected to hold the Knights under three yards per rush, another solid performance by the front seven would be very encouraging. Werlinger did a great job of protecting the ball — only one interception — even though he threw 49 times against Pinnacle. If he can produce a similar effort against the Knights, Basha’s offense should score enough to get the victory...
Prediction: Basha 24, Westview 21
-- Kyle Odegard
Emanuel Gant, Tempe: 368 yards, 3 TD...
Dalton Sneed, Horizon: 409 yards, 4 TD...
Zach Werlinger, Basha (pictured): 396 yards, 2 TD...
John Clark, Mountain View: 306 yards, 5 TD...
Sean Paul Brophy, Chaparral: 302 yards, 2 TD...
Tyler Bloom, Higley: 298 yards, TD...
Kyle Allen, Desert Mountain: 288 yards, 3 TD...
Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro: 258 yards, 6 TD.