There are two ways to look at Chandler’s 48-42 loss to Peoria Centennial on Friday night, in which the Wolves had a first-and-goal from the 8 with under a minute to go and couldn’t score.
On one hand, yes, Chandler lost another close game to an elite opponent in dramatic fashion. For one reason or another, the Wolves always seem to come out on the losing end of these types of games.
And Chandler certainly did shoot itself in the foot, with a roughing the punter penalty late in the first half that led to a Centennial touchdown and a fumble in the fourth quarter. The defense will also need to be shored up, as poor tackling and missed assignments led to some big plays for Centennial, to the tune of seven touchdowns.
Clearly there are plenty of things to worry about for coach Jim Ewan and his assistants.
Then again, the talent of quarterback Brett Hundley is so undeniable that the prospect of Chandler hitting on all cylinders is tantalizing.
In the great majority of games, Centennial’s defense is the one that sets the tones, playing physical football, running hard to the ball and slowing down anything an offense tries to run.
On Friday, Chandler only slowed down when receivers dropped passes or Hundley made bad throws. Even though Centennial knew what was coming — Chandler called passing plays about three quarters of the time — it still couldn’t stop it.
While it’s no secret that Hundley is a mega-recruit, his growth from last year has been impressive. Against Centennial, he had the perfect internal clock while in the pocket, scanning his receivers until the last possible moment and then scrambling, often for big chunks of yardage.
Chandler ran a no-huddle offense for most of the night, and Hundley looked completely comfortable throughout.
In some ways, though, we leave this game with the same questions we had coming in.
Chandler’s offense is clearly one of the best in the state, but can the Wolves avoid sloppy errors and find enough defensive playmakers to slow down opposing teams?
After next week’s game against Casa Grande, Chandler will face Mesa, Brophy, Hamilton and Red Mountain in consecutive games. Chandler has some work to do, but clearly has the highest potential among the group of challengers to Hamilton’s throne. The question is, can the Wolves reach it?
On Monday, Hundley will choose his college football destination, He has whittled his list to UCLA and Washington, and will make the announcement at 10:30 a.m. at Chandler High.
As we peek into next week, the game that catches our eye is Mountain Pointe against Basha. These two teams had a classic quarterfinal matchup in last year’s 5A postseason, with the Pride squeaking out a one-point, overtime victory. Expect the same type of defense-first, grind-it-out football we are used to seeing between these teams. Basha won its first game under Bernie Busken against Casa Grande on Friday, but this game will be the first legitimate test in the new era.
Highland’s resolve: The Hawks could have hung their heads when quarterback Parker Rasmussen transferred to play at Desert Ridge, but coach Pete Wahlheim was very impressed with the team’s offseason work. While Highland ended up losing 21-13 to Mountain Pointe on Friday, it was a solid showing against one of the state’s better teams. Wahlheim has always been confident in his defense. If the Highland offense can start clicking, the team may be able to surprise people.
Pinnacle trickery: The Pioneers trailed 17-14 in the fourth quarter and lined up for a punt, but coach Dana Zupke made a decision that helped win the game. Pinnacle faked the punt, and Jackson Harley picked up 12 yards and the first down. The Pioneers would score a touchdown on that possession to go ahead by three points, and then held on for the 20-19 victory.
Cactus Shadows coach Chad Degrenier: The Falcons coach did it again, taking a group of little known players and beating No. 3 Vail Cienega, 32-29, on Friday night at Cactus Shadows. Cactus Shadows came out of nowhere last season to post an undefeated regular season, but lost most of those key players to graduation. But Degrenier got his new group to buy in, and now we will wait and see if it becomes another fairytale season for the Falcons.
Mountain View’s start: The Toros lost their season opener on Friday, 17-11, to Mountain Ridge. It’s not a good sign, as Chaparral and Sunnyside — a pair of teams that beat Mountain View last year — loom on the non-region schedule. As expected, Mountain View’s offense struggled as the Toros attempt to replace all but one offensive starter from a season ago. The Toros need to make some quick adjustments, because the possibility of an 0-3 start is staring them in the face.
St. Mary’s offense and special teams: The Knights defense couldn’t be asked to do more, as it held Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor to just four first downs on Friday night, but the other two units didn’t fare as well. St. Mary’s could only muster two touchdowns in the contest, and in a one-point game in the fourth quarter, the Knights snapped the ball out of the end zone and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown for a disappointing 22-13 loss. Sandra Day O’Connor mustered only 143 total yards but still came away with the victory.