One of these days...
Sometime, somewhere, someone else in the Chandler school district is going to beat Hamilton. Both Chandler and Basha have tried but haven’t yet succeeded.
Basha heads to Hamilton on Friday night.
So, yet again, will this be the year?
As Basha coach Bernie Busken noted this week, “It’s time to start coming around,” and, for the Bears, there might not be a better time than against their district neighbors.
Two months after an 0-2 start to the season and some followers’ subsequent obituaries, Hamilton is arguably the hottest team in Division I.
The Huskies’ offense has found its way, notably a reduction in turnovers a passing game that’s complemented their running to create balance. But there were also some schematic and positional changes on defense, and it’s worked. The Huskies held Desert Ridge to 14 points, Chandler to 18 points and Desert Vista to 13.
“We had issues early on, things we had to clean on both sides (of the ball),” Huskies defensive coordinator Lane Reynolds said. “We’ve been on a roll the last six weeks. I think we’re headed in the right direction, but it’s high school football and the kids have to play the game. Let’s hope the team that showed up the past six weeks keeps showing up.”
One of the major components to this matchup will be Basha’s defense trying to stop Hamilton’s offense. But, when the Bears don’t commit turnovers (12 lost fumbles, eight interceptions), the Bears offense has been balanced and prolific.
Reynolds noted last year’s Bears threw “80 or 85 percent” of the time with former quarterback Kyle Duran. This year, however, Rajhan Meriwether (872 yards rushing. six touchdowns), Brandon Marxman (six yards per carry, four TD) and QB Zach Werlinger’s mobility offer a bigger challenge.
So, too, does Nate Phillips (850 yards receiving, 11 TD), Ronnie Query (413 yards, 4 TD) and Meriwhether out of the backfield.
That’s a lot of kids to stop.
“We feel like if we play our very best we have a chance, and if we don’t, I don’t think there’s a lot of margin of error anywhere,” Busken said.
In addition to a surging offensive line, the steady growth of QB AJ Thigpen, a bevy of running backs (Kevin Walters, Frankie Felix and Stevon Adams), and junior receivers Izzy Simpson and Elijah Williams have helped the Huskies move way beyond the early-season doldrums and re-appear as state title contenders. It’s strikingly similar to what Basha could do for itself with a win.
“For us it’s about what we do and hopefully we’ll have a good night,” Busken said. “We’ve had some good nights and got some players who can do some things. We just need to do it in a big game.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.