Division II, Section III
Coach: Charlie Ragle
Last year’s record: 14-0, defeated Peoria Centennial for 5A-II state championship
Returning offensive starters: 7, including quarterback Connor Brewer, who completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 37 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.
Returning defensive starters: 2, including cornerback Davonte Neal, who had five interceptions and nine pass deflections last year.
Aug. 20 vs. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman (at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium), Aug. 26 at Salpointe, Sept. 2 at Marcos de Niza, Sept. 9 vs. Sunnyslope, Sept. 16 vs. Desert Mountain, Sept. 23 at McClintock, Sept. 30 at Notre Dame, Oct. 6 vs. Mesquite, Oct. 14 at Shadow Mountain, Oct. 21 vs. Horizon, Oct. 28 vs. Saguaro
Aug. 20 vs. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman (at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium): The Firebirds start their season with a bang, facing off against another one of the nation’s elite football programs. Hamilton defeated the Gaels 24-17 last year in Flagstaff, but Bishop Gorman returns star RB Shaquille Powell and star QB Jarrett Solomon from last year’s Nevada 4A champs.
Sept. 2 at Marcos de Niza: The Padres are expected to be one of the top contenders to Chaparral’s throne. These two teams haven’t played since the Firebirds defeated Marcos de Niza in the 5A-II title game two seasons ago, but both have the talent to meet there again this season.
Oct. 28 vs. Saguaro: One of the state’s best rivalries is back on following a two-year hiatus. The Sabercats got the better of Chaparral in the most recent meetings – including a 38-0 4A-I title-game victory in 2008 – but the Firebirds will be heavy favorites in this one.
Chaparral has its sights set on a third consecutive state championship, and it certainly has the personnel to do it.
Texas-commit Connor Brewer (148-of-22 for 2,677 yards with 37 touchdowns and six interceptions) begins his third season as the starting quarterback for the Firebirds, and he has one of the state’s most lethal wide receivers at his disposal in Davonte Neal (37 receptions, 907 yards and 11 TD).
The running back position is solid, with Lucas Petrullo, Zach Skeen and Malcolm Thomas expected to carry most of the load. Chaparral will need to replace quite a bit of talent on its offensive line, but the skill players are so explosive that it will be tough for anyone to slow this offense down.
The bigger questions are on defense, where only two starters return. One of those, though, is Neal, who is one of the better cornerbacks in Arizona. He can shut down many of the top receivers Chaparral will see, which gives the defensive staff more options.
The defense will be buoyed by the addition of defensive line transfers Jarvis Lewis and Dylan Cozens. Lewis had 13 sacks for Raymond Kellis last season and has committed to Arizona State. As long as the Arizona Interscholastic Association clears Chaparral of recruiting allegations regarding Lewis, he should be a difference-maker on the line.
The other bookend is Cozens, who has never played football before, but has coach Charlie Ragle gushing with praise.
“He is the best natural athlete I’ve ever coached,” Ragle said. “He’s already doing things in pads that other kids can’t do in their third or fourth years.”
Ragle said Cozens is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and can run a forty-yard dash in 4.7 seconds.
Cody Ippolito, the team’s second-leading tackler from a year ago, is back at linebacker, and Petrullo will play there as well after sticking to offense last season, so the Firebirds certainly have talent on that side of the ball.
The schedule is tough, with nationally ranked Las Vegas Bishop Gorman to kick things off, as well as Salpointe, Marcos de Niza, Notre Dame, Mesquite and Saguaro on the slate.
“We’re going to be tested, but we’re ready to go,” Ragle said.