This looked familiar.
The No. 5 Chandler football team was halfway through its showdown with crosstown rival No. 7 Basha on Friday night, and it was not going as planned.
Three first-half turnovers and a slew of penalties halted every drive as the Wolves went into intermission in a 17-0 hole. The Chandler program has long been lauded for its talent, but in many big games it has not translated into wins, and this one fit that script to a tee.
However, the Wolves put everything together in the second half, scoring touchdowns on six straight possessions to rally for a 41-31 victory in a Division I contest at Chandler.
“We’ve always had the talent, everybody knows that,” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said. “I just tried to work on the psyche of the kids to try to keep them up, to try to finish the ballgame. I just call the plays. They make the plays, so it’s a credit to them.”
Quarterback Darell Garretson completed 30-of-41 passes for 383 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Branden Jenkins had 23 carries for 163 yards and two scores and added a receiving touchdown.
The offense came out on fire in the second half for Chandler, but a one-yard touchdown run by Basha backup quarterback Brandon Marxman with 11:56 remaining still had the Wolves trailing 31-21.
Chandler didn’t give in, scoring 20 unanswered points from that point to secure the victory.
Elijah Sykes caught a 49-yard touchdown pass with 8:53 remaining to give Chandler its first lead of the game at 34-31, and Garretson sealed it with an 8-yard run on the next possession.
The Wolves still have big-time matchups with No. 1 Mountain Pointe and No. 8 Hamilton in the next two weeks, but for now can enjoy improving to 4-0 and leaving a highly-anticipated game as the victors.
“This was a great monkey off our back,” Garretson said.
Basha moved the ball well for the majority of the game, but a pair of third-quarter fumbles changed the momentum and the Bears offense slowed down in the fourth quarter.
Basha turned the ball over on downs and then punted twice after taking the 10-point lead early in the fourth and allowed Chandler the opportunity to rally.
Quarterback Zach Werlinger finished 26-of-37 passing for 377 yards with three touchdowns and Nate Phillips had eight catches for 154 yards.
Chandler tight end Patrick Baldenegro said it was human nature to have doubts at halftime, but he had a feeling the team would turn it around in the final 24 minutes.
“I don’t see how you can’t worry about a 17-0 deficit at the half,” he said. “They were moving the ball like nothing else. I was telling myself, ‘This is a nightmare and I’m going to wake up from this in five minutes.’ Our word is ‘finish’, and we finished what we had to do.”
Score by quarters
Basha -- 7 10 7 7 -- 31
Chandler -- 0 0 21 20 -- 41
First downs: Basha 25; Chandler 31
Rushes - Yards: Basha 37-141; Chandler 39-247
Comp-Att-Int: Basha 26-37-1; Chandler 31-42-1
Passing Yards: Basha 377; Chandler 398
Fumbles-Lost: Basha 3-2; Chandler 3-2
Penalties-Yards: Basha 16-122; Chandler 16-155
B - Meriwether 5 run, Carrillo kick
B - Querry 28 pass from Werlinger, Carrillo kick
B - Carrillo 23 FG
C - Jenkins 10 pass from Garretson, Jenkins run
B - Brooks 34 pass from Werlinger, Carrillo kick
C - Jenkins 3 run, pass failed
C - Mayhan 5 run, Knudson kick
B - Marxman 1 run, Carrillo kick
C - Jenkins 3 run, Knudson kick
C - Sykes 49 pass from Garretson, Knudson kick
C - Garretson 8 run, kick failed