Outlook: Last year’s showing for Chandler was reminiscent of past seasons. There were flashes of dominance, but the overall picture was a bit underwhelming. The Wolves started 4-0, including a comeback win over Basha, and then lost 28-27 to Mountain Pointe. However, Hamilton and Desert Vista beat Chandler handily in the regular season and Brophy knocked the Wolves out of the playoffs in the first round.
This year’s team is again stacked with talent, particularly at wide receiver. Dionte Sykes, who is committed to UCLA, and Mitch McCulley lead an impact group. Elijah Sykes can move around on offense and is another big-play threat. Chandler loses running backs Kabian Evans and Myles Smith to graduation and must find a reliable running option to balance the offense, but athletes are not in short supply within the program. Quarterback Bryce Perkins — who picked up a scholarship offer from Arizona State as a sophomore — isn’t a pure passer but is one of the best players in the class of 2015, and his evolution as an aerial threat is key. Talented sophomore Mason Moran could also see time at quarterback.
Outside linebacker J.R. Hunt returns to lead a defense which struggled against Brophy in the playoffs. Nate Sample, Wesley Sutton and Lucian Toruga are also returning starters, but the biggest questions about Chandler are certainly on this side of the ball. Thurmond Moore is the new defensive coordinator and he brings with him 28 years of college coaching experience.
The Wolves have a challenging schedule but once again have the potential to make a deep playoff run. Chandler has long been among the second tier of contenders and hopes to make the leap.
“We have a very tough schedule and concerned about youth in some areas,” coach Shaun Aguano said in an email. “I really feel if our chemistry as a team improves then we will have a very productive year.”
Division I, Section II
Coach: Shaun Aguano
Last year’s record: 7-4, lost to Brophy in the first round of the Division I playoffs
Returning Starters: 5 on offense/4 on defense
Top returners: WR Mitch McCulley (45 rec., 721 yards, 5 TD); WR Dionte Sykes (42 rec., 708 yards, 5 TD); LB J.R. Hunt (62 tackles, 3 interceptions); LB Lucian Toruga (29 tackles, 3 sacks).
Aug. 29 vs. Centennial; Sept. 6 at Buena; Sept. 14 at Bellflower St. Johns Bosco (Calif.) (at Mission Viejo H.S.); Sept. 20 vs. Mountain Pointe; Sept. 27 at Cesar Chavez; Oct. 4 vs. Hamilton; Oct. 11 at Gilbert; Oct. 18 vs. Perry; Oct. 25 vs. Basha; Nov. 1 at Highland
Aug. 29 vs. Centennial: There is no easing into the season for Chandler, as it immediately takes on the most successful West Valley program in the state. The Wolves are young in some areas, so the players must shake their jitters quickly and limit mistakes. This is a very good litmus test for both sides and could be a sign of things to come this year.
Sept. 20 vs. Mountain Pointe: Last year’s game was a classic, as the Pride edged Chandler, 28-27, in overtime. Both teams are expected to be very good again this season, although Mountain Pointe should be a heavier favorite than last year based on the personnel it has returning. It’s another possible statement game for Chandler and this result could impact the Division I playoff seedings down the road.
Oct. 4 vs. Hamilton: There have been times in the past few years in which Chandler was seen as a trendy upset pick in the rivalry, and the Wolves have indeed been close on a couple occasions. With the talent the Huskies return on defense, this year’s game seems like an uphill battle for Chandler. The Wolves have the big-play ability to score points in a hurry, and doing so early on against Hamilton is instrumental.