On the infamous list of spouted coaching cliches, “It’s just another game” ranks near the top.
When two top-tier teams face off in front of thousands? It’s just another game.
Crosstown rivals meeting again? It’s just another game.
Not this week. Not for Shaun Aguano.
The sixth-ranked Chandler football team takes on No. 1 Hamilton for the 15th time in school history on Friday. So far, the Wolves are 0-for-everything.
Aguano’s the newly minted coach of Chandler, but he’s been on staff for a majority of those losses. Instead of trying to downplay the importance of a win over the three-time-defending-champion Huskies, he’s welcoming the excitement.
“I’m trying to make it as big of a deal as possible,” Aguano said. “I just had this talk with my players: Not only would the 75 of you and the coaches have smiles on your faces (with a win), but Saturday morning probably about one million people will open the newspaper and it will make them smile, too.”
Hamilton, once again, is the favorite. The Huskies have already dispatched expected contenders Mountain Pointe and Desert Ridge, with Desert Vista and Basha still left on the schedule.
But since these teams are in such close proximity, and because Chandler has given Hamilton a few scares recently, this is the big one.
“They’re chomping at the bit,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said. “If we could have played yesterday, we would have.”
Hamilton’s defense leads the way, but the offense is improving. Quarterback Blake Kemp has performed very well in the past two weeks, including throwing for 313 yards and a touchdown last week in a win over Mesquite. It was the second highest passing yardage total in school history.
The game, though, will likely be determined when Chandler has the ball.
The Wolves don’t have standout quarterback Brett Hundley this season, but they do have an efficient offense that is harder to game plan against. Belles calls Paul Perkins the best running back the team has seen thus far — no small compliment since Hamilton has already faced Anthony Lopez (Mesquite) and Joey Counts (Desert Ridge) — and wide receivers Javon Williams and Lloyd Mills are a dangerous tandem.
The Wolves are averaging 45.2 points per game and should be able to move the ball some, even though the Huskies have the best defense in the state.
The big difference could be turnovers. If Chandler can hold onto the ball, it has a chance to make this a game. But with Jaxon Hood and Calvin Thomas on the defensive line and Reggie Daniels leading a star-studded secondary, that’s easier said than done.
“We have to protect the ball and I’m sure they’re saying the same thing,” Belles said.