August 20, 2004
Hamilton High had Chandler abuzz last season, winning a state football championship — the best end result in the city in more than 50 years.
Just think how energized more folks would be if both the city’s 5A schools were postseason participants in the same season.
With a little luck this season and the hard work his 2004 group has put forth so far, Chandler High coach Jim Ewan thinks more than the Huskies could be playing meaningful games in mid-November.
"Our linebackers and secondary run to the ball very well; we have very good speed," said Ewan, entering his fourth year at the helm of the Wolves. "They give us a chance to be a very good defensive team. If our D-line can come around, we can be very tough.
"It's a year just about everyone in our league (Fiesta) is going to be very good. Everybody has a bunch of people back. It's going to be very competitive. Making the playoffs this year would be an accomplishment."
Chandler finished 6-4 last season, with a turnover-plagued loss to Mesquite in Week 8 preventing the Wolves from making the playoffs.
What's going to make the region tough is the championship confidence gained by Hamilton, the strong senior class and experience of Gilbert and the maturity expected from Mesquite and Highland squads this fall.
"Right now we've done all we can to make sure we're in position to be successful," Ewan said. "This the best shape we've been in, the strongest we've been and the hardest-working group I've had in the three years I've been here.’’
Changes on Horizon: New coach Steve Casey is going through the usual rigors of being new to a program, including installing a new offense and defense. The Huskies will employ a 3-5 defense. On offense he likes to spread the field with one back a lot of the time.
‘‘I like the 3-5. We'll blitz and try to make things happen on defense,’’ Casey said. On offense, ‘‘We don't have the kind of back you can pound at people 20 or 25 times, so we want to be able to run off the passing game.’’
Two juniors are vying for the quarterback spot — Dax Crum and Reilly Sullivan. Casey said he'll have a better idea who will get the job after the Huskies host Mountain View next Wednesday in a scrimmage.
‘‘The players have done pretty well having all this new stuff thrown at them,’’ Casey said. ‘‘They didn't have spring ball or much of a winter program, so there hasn't been a lot of time to take it all in.’’
Defense of old? Coach Jim Jones' most successful teams were the 2000 and 2001 clubs that won state titles with strong defenses. He’s not ready to lump this year's unit in that category, but he likes the potential.
‘‘We are far ahead defensively than where we are offensively,’’ Jones said. ‘‘If we come along like I think we can, this could be like the defenses of the old days (2000, 2001).’’
Leading the way are all-region nose guard John Hargis, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior, and fellow lineman Brooks Waldrip (6-0, 220). Add linebacker Tanner Roberts and all-region safety Greg Bird and Jones has a solid foundation.
Red Mountain gave up 20 points a game last season compared to 12 each year it won the 5A title.
EAST VALLEY REGION
One coach's view: With season openers a little more than two weeks away, handicapping the 5A East Valley Region football race is still a guessing game for region coaches. Most believe it will be a four-team race among Dobson, Westwood, Mountain View and Red Mountain.
Jones ventured this synopsis of the region.
‘‘Dobson will be really good, especially if they get a good line in place,’’ Jones said. ‘‘Mountain View lost an awful lot, but Mountain View is Mountain View. You can't sell them short. Westwood is right there, too. I think they are concerned most about their depth.’’
Jones didn't mention, at first, how his team fit in.
‘‘We're just practicing, and trying to get better,’’ Jones said. When pushed, Jones said his team figures in the mix, but he did not predict a region title.