October 8, 2004
Is Chaparral still the class of the 4A East Sky Region?
A big part of that answer will come tonight as the sixth-ranked Firebirds will visit No. 7 Tempe.
For the first time in years, the Buffaloes (5-0) enter the game with a better record than Chaparral (4-2).
"It’s been a long time since Tempe High has beaten Chaparral," said Buffaloes coach Mark Rhiner. "We feel like we have a great opportunity."
The game has obvious region title implications. The two teams along with Saguaro are the only schools unbeaten in East Sky play.
"We know you have to win this game to win the region title, which is important for seeding in the playoffs," said Chaparral defensive tackle Morgan Ruby. "We’re taking them very seriously."
Chaparral coach Ron Estabrook has plenty of concerns about the Buffaloes.
"They’re pretty big," said Estabrook. "They’ve got some goodsized linemen on both sides of the ball. The running back, Dwight Pete, he’s a good running back. He’s very elusive."
Tempe traditionally is known for its running game, but this season, the Buffaloes also don’t hesitate to pass.
"They are more than one dimensional," said Estabrook. "It looks like they have a whole new spirit and attitude. It will help a program going 5-0. Obviously, that fuels that fire.
"They look a lot better on film than they have."
Rhiner had even more praise for Chaparral.
"This is the first time we’ve faced a terrific team," said Rhiner. "This is a kind of test for us to see in terms of where we are."
According to Rhiner, the keys for Tempe are eliminating turnovers and winning the battles of field position and time of possession.
"We have to play well and have those three keys to be successful," said Rhiner.
Estabrook said a good start is imperative against the Buffaloes.
"It’s important not to let Tempe get the upper hand," said Estabrook. "We don’t want to fall behind because they run the ball so well and use the clock."
Ruby said early-season losses to Tucson Sunnyside and Peoria Centennial could help the Firebirds against Tempe.
"I think they (the losses) pretty much showed us where we were and where we need to be," said Ruby. "We need to play perfect fundamentally to beat good teams."