For the second week in a row, Highland fell to a top Division I team by a touchdown. The No. 7-seeded Hawks (based on power rankings) fell to No. 2-seeded Chandler, 21-14, in the regular season finale for both teams.
Highland forced four Chandler turnovers two of which stalled the Wolves (8-2) near the Hawks' goal line, but the Hawks couldn't capitalize often enough and now must wait until Saturday to see if they stay in the top eight to host a first-round playoff game.
“Losing these games and coming up short in the regular season is much better than coming up short in the playoffs. We will learn from it and we will come back Monday ready to work. I like where we are at right now going into the playoffs.” Highland coach Pete Wahlheim said.
Chandler looked good early. Its fast-paced offense raced down to the field on the first possession of the game. But on third-and-goal at the 3-yard line, Bryce Perkins' pass to a wide open Dionte Sykes in the back of the end zone went right through Sykes hands. The ensuing 20-yard field goal attempt by Scott Knutson was blocked by Highland's Chip White.
That was the start of some big plays by the Hawks' defense which kept Chandler momentarily off the scoreboard.
On the opening drive of the second half with the game tied 14-14, Chase Lucas fumbled the ball at the Highland goal line and it was recovered in the end zone by the Hawks (6-4). In the fourth quarter, with the Wolves leading 21-14, Perkins' goal line pass was intercepted in the end zone by O’Neil Filloon.
“We also had some breaks go against us. It all evens out in the end. It was a great game between two very good high school football teams. They made a few more plays than we did,” Wahlheim said.
Through the mistakes, however, Chandler (8-2) made the plays when it needed to. Terrell Flanigan scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown on a 19-yard run with 2:17 left in the third quarter, his second TD of the night.
In the fourth, neither team was able to get into a good rhythm on offense until the end. With under a minute to go and Highland inside the Wolves' 20-yard line, the Hawks had their only turnover of the game. Blake Young’s pass to the end zone was intercepted by Wesley Sutton.
“I give all the credit to Highland. They came out and played really tough. We had six trips to the red zone and three of them we did not come away with anything. That’s our fault. But their defense had a great plan and played a great game. So I give a lot of credit to them. Going into the playoffs we feel like we can win the state championship. Anything short of that is not going to be real good for us.” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said.
Chandler 21, Highland 14
First Downs: Chandler 20, Highland 13
Rushing: Chandler 27-150, Highland 32-96
Passing (comp.-att.-yards-TD-INT): Chandler 20-29-233-1-3, Highland 17-28-150-2-1
Fumbles-lost: Chandler 1-1, Highland 1-0
Penalties-yards: Chandler 4-45, Highland 3-15
Chandler 7 7 7 0 -- 21
Highland 0 14 0 0 -- 14
Chandler: Flanigan 6 run (Knutson kick)
Highland: McCord 5 pass from Young (Miller kick)
Highland: Brown 19 pass from Young (Miller kick)
Chandler: Sykes 28 pass from Perkins (Knutson kick)
Chandler: Flanigan 19 run (Knutson kick)