Chandler didn’t realize it had a chance to make its case for the No. 1 spot in Division I as the high school football season continues on its wacky way. It took more than a half before the Wolves’ defense shut down Gilbert Mesquite in the second half for a 37-7 win on the road.
Darell Garretson tossed two late TD passes to secure the win but seemed to be just a bit off and the Chandler offense not quite in tempo in the intermittent drizzle and muddy Mesquite field.
“This was a grind-it-out game,” Garretson said. “I think this is the best possible thing we could have done, that could have happened because now we know when it gets down to the moments where we have to grind it out, we can do it.”
The starters played essentially the entire game, with Garretson throwing TD passes with six and three minutes left. He only missed one series when he got a cramp in his right calf.
But even had Chandler approached its first two week average of 67.5 points a game, it’s the next three weeks that may just determine what kind of season the Wolves have, says coach Shaun Aguano.
“We have Basha, Mountain Pointe and then Hamilton -- we will see how good we are or how bad we are real quick,” Aguano said. “We needed this kind of game before we head into these next three games.”
On Friday, Chandler sputtered out of the gate. Garretson threw an interception early and the Wolves committed several ill-timed penalties. It wasn’t until the Wolves got the ball in Mesquite territory after a short punt that the Wolves got on the board.
“You have to give them credit, they played a good game and took us out of our rhythm,” Aguano said. “We came back at the end and our defense played well but defensively, I thought Mesquite played us pretty well.”
The Wolves’ second score, a Branden Jenkins’ 1-yard run, came after a 90-yard, nearly five-minute drive that established Chandler in control.
Chandler held Mesquite deep in its own end in the final two minutes of the half and got the ball at the Wildcat 42, driving down for a Garretson-to-Patrick Baldenegro TD pass from the 14 with 49 seconds remaining. The Wolves led 21-7 at the break.
Chandler simply didn’t allow a young Mesquite team to get any momentum in the second half, getting a safety when quarterback Payton Haslam intentionally grounded the ball from his own end zone in the third quarter. The Wolves then picked off Haslam three times the rest of the way to shut the door.
Mesquite, though, got its first points of the season after being blanked by Highland and Red Mountain by a combined score of 75-0 in weeks one and two.
The Wildcats tied the game when Adam Stewart got behind the Chandler defense in the end zone and eased into the end zone with a 22-yard TD reception from Haslam early in the second quarter.
That heartened coach Matt Gracey.
“I’m pretty happy, our kids played fantastic, we are getting better each week,” he said. “We told our kids at the beginning of the year – it was going to take the entire year because we are so young.”
Garretson ended up with 164 yards passing and Jenkins with 137 yards on the ground on a field that did not end up being too much of a factor most of the night.
Chandler 7 14 2 14 – 37
Mesquite 0 7 0 0 – 7
C-Tuita 5 pass from Garretson (Knudson kick)
M-Stewart 22 pass from Haslam (James kick)
C-Jenkins 1 run (Knudson kick)
C-Baldenegro 14 pass from Garretson (Knudson kick)
C-Safety, Mesquite penalty in end zone
C-Sykes 63 pass from Garretson (Knudson kick)
C-Sykes 10 pass from Garretson (Knudson kick)
First Downs: Chandler 21, Mesquite 14
Rushes-Yards: Chandler 46-270, Mesquite 26-42
Passing Yards: Chandler 164, Mesquite 186
Comp-Att-Int: Chandler 15-31-1, Mesquite 18-38-4
Fumbles-Lost: Chandler 3-1, Mesquite 2-0
Penalties: Chandler 13-129, Mesquite 11-95