Basha at Hamilton
Hamilton DE Qualen Cunningham gets called for a face mask against Basha's QB Zach Werlinger during the third quarter of the teams' matchup Oct. 19. Heading into the final week of regular season play, Hamilton is in line for the third seed in the upcoming state tournament, while Basha is 11th.
Desert Ridge at Basha
Desert Ridge quarterback Travis Long runs the ball against Basha, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 in Chandler.[Jerry Burch/Special to Tribune]
Football: Mt. Pointe vs Mt. View
Jimmy Holtrop, #31 of Mountain Pointe, is tackled by Logan Luke, #19, and Dakota Mathews, #41 of Mountain View, during Mountain Pointe's homecoming game against Mountain View on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012.
Football: DV vs Dobson
Jarek Hilgers, #20 of Desert Vista, is tackled during Desert Vista's homecoming game against Dobson on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012.
Chandler at Hamilton
Chandler wide receiver Mitch McCulley, right, sheds the tackle attempt by Hamilton cornerback Levi Sterling, left, in the first half at Hamilton High School, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, in Chandler. [Paul Connors/Special to Tribune]
10 to Watch 2013: Zach Werlinger
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.
Qualen Cunningham, Hamilton, Sr., DL
Given the history of Hamilton defensive players, it’s difficult to be overly “Wowed” by anyone anymore, but Cunningham coming around the edge or darting inside was a sight to see the past few years. His speed and athleticism were practically impossible to block most nights, as evident this year by a school-record 19 sacks and a couple tackles for loss against Mountain Pointe in the state championship game. His ability to get off blocks rapidly improved the past two seasons, and it became “pick your poison” whether teams tried to run at him or away from him because he chased people down. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder verbally committed to Texas A&M.
10 to Watch 2013: Qualen Cunningham
Qualen Cunningham, Sr., DL, Hamilton
Football games are often won in the trenches, and there may not be a guy you want there more than Cunningham. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he is a load to move on running plays. When a quarterback drops to pass, Cunningham has the speed and agility to make a beeline into the backfield. The Huskies’ secondary is very good, but it sure helps when Cunningham is consistently bottling plays up near the line of scrimmage. His most recent scholarship offer came from Oregon as the country’s premier programs continue to fight for Cunningham’s services.
No. 3 Centennial (Div. II) at No. 4 Chandler (Div. I)
Athletes ahoy. Both schools have been in the “elite” class recently, whether for long periods of time as Centennial (Division II) has dating back to its 5A Division II days, or off-and-on in the case of Chandler. Both teams certainly could play the part again in 2013, because both teams are well-stocked in speed, talent and something to prove. Centennial was crushed by Tucson Ironwood Ridge in last year’s state championship game, while the Wolves have revamped their defensive style to a degree under Thurmond Moore, while Shaun Aguano’s team is loaded at the skill positions with Bryce Perkins, Dionte Sykes, Chase Lucas and Mitch McCulley. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are trying to plug in a lot of new pieces defensively, and, with or without Sykes this week while waiting for medical clearance to return from a broken hand, will have a tough task. So, too, will Chandler’s defense in handling Centennial’s running game, the kind of thing that’s caused problems for the Wolves for four quarters in recent history. It’s a juggernaut of an opener for both schools, and a shootout isn’t far-fetched.
Prediction: Centennial 27, Chandler 24
-- Mark Heller
Chandler at Hamilton
Chandler wide receiver Mitch McCulley, right, sheds the tackle attempt by Hamilton's Levi Sterling, left, in the first half at Hamilton High School on Sept. 28, 2012.