A lot of change can happen in a calendar year. Unless, of course, it's Chaparral and Perry. It seems even a new season couldn’t create an original script to a familiar playoff ending between the two schools.
If there was any doubt that the gap had shrunk between the Firebirds and Pumas from 2011 to 2012, well, Chaparral was more than happy to put that notion to rest just 12 minutes into Friday night’s first round of the Division II playoffs.
Chaparral's defense limited the Pumas to eight yards from scrimmage in the first quarter, and senior quarterback Brad Schencker connected with senior wideouts Jake Roh and Jordin Hamilton for touchdown passes of 33 and 58 yards respectively, to quickly turn a rematch into an old-fashioned 45-7 blowout win for Chaparral on Friday night.
Another rematch awaits. This time the surging-Firebirds will face No. 2 Marcos de Niza in next week's quarterfinals. The Padres beat Chaparral in the final seconds earlier this season.
“Our defense played well all game and that was the key,” Huffine said. “We knew they were going to try and shorten the football game. And that’s what they did. They really controlled the ball.
“We had a couple of quick first strikes on offense, but defensively we kept them in front of us, made tackles and forced them to go the length of the field. Fortunately, that weren’t able to do that. Getting up early was probably the key to the game.”
Senior running back Josh Aganon provided some insurance with two short touchdown runs out of the wildcat, and Roh capped off what could have been the final home performance of his illustrious high school career with a sensational tip-drill interception-turned-65-yard touchdown return to put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
Chaparral (8-3) is on a quest to win its fourth straight state championship in as many years, but doing so from the No. 7 seed will be a lot harder for the Firebirds. Huffine said veteran experience from players like Roh could prove to be the difference this time of year.
“He is a beast,” said Huffine. “He does so many things for our football team. Tonight, he comes up with that big interception to kill their momentum, but he’s been doing that all year. And, he never comes out of games. He’s the best conditioned athlete we have.”
“But, he’s just one of our captains. Alex Arnold made a big interception. Alex Ziomek played really well. Tim Murphy played well at safety, and then you have Jordin Hamilton playing lock down at corner. Those are the guys leading this football team right now. The guys that have rings on their fingers are going to be the ones that show the young kids what it takes to go far in the playoffs.”
For the Pumas (7-4), the chance at a deep run in the state playoffs has now been cut short by the Firebirds in back-to-back years. Following last year’s 51-7 defeat in the quarterfinals, Preston Jones and co. welcomed another November trip to Chaparral.
But on a night when the team’s only offense came on a bizarre botched lateral-turned 64-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Taelon Parson to sophomore quarterback Austin Nightingale, a shot at the quarterfinals wasn't in the cards.
“I’m sure the energy level was there, we just couldn’t move the ball whatsoever,” Jones said. “We were excited about the opportunity to play them again. We weren’t intimidated or scared. They just kicked our butts.
“We have a lot of work to. [The program] isn’t where it needs to be right now. Look, they are a great football team and probably one of the best No. 7 seeds you’ll ever see. But, if we take care of our business during the regular season we aren’t seeing them yet.”
Back on Aug. 31, Marcos de Niza’s quarterback Josh Eckley capped a thrilling comeback with an 11-yard touchdown run at the buzzer to stun Chaparral, 29-27.
A few months may have passed, but Chaparral surely hasn’t forgotten.
“Marcos is loaded with athletes, we know them very well having played them back in Week 2,” said Huffine. “We are a whole different team now. The confidence level and the fact that there is a lot of familiarity with the way the team’s gelling; it’s been a lot of fun watching this. We feel like there’s a lot more football left in us.”
Chaparral 45, Perry 7
Chaparral 14 10 7 14 -- 45
Perry 0 0 7 0 -- 7
First Downs: Chaparral 13, Perry 10
Rushes-yards: Chaparral 33-155, Perry 34-104
Passing yards: Chaparral 172, Perry 96
Comp-Att-Int: Chaparral 13-18-0, Perry 7- 24-3
Fumbles–lost: Chaparral 1-1, Perry 1-0
Penalty-yards: Chaparral 8-95, Perry 9-55
CH- 33-yard catch by Jake Roh from Brad Schencker (McReynolds kick)
CH- 58-yard catch by Jordin Hamilton from Brad Schencker (McReynolds kick)
CH- 1-yard run by Josh Aganon (McReynolds kick)
CH- 37-yard kick by Sam McReynolds
CH- 66-yard interception return by Jake Roh (McReynolds kick)
P- 64-yard catch by Austin Nightingale from Taelon Parson
CH- 5-yard run by Josh Aganon (McReynolds kick)
CH- 6-yard run by Malcolm Thomas (McReynolds kick)