Basha vs Highland

Basha sophomore wide receiver Bryson Dedmond had 114 receiving yards Friday in the Bears' win over Highland.

All season long Basha has proven the preseason hype surrounding its talent-filled roster was warranted.

The Bears have one of the top defenses in the state this year and could very well make a bid for best secondary in the country next when nearly the entire unit returns next season. It also has one of the top offenses this season averaging over 46 points per game behind the arm of sophomore Demond Williams.

But onlookers still challenged Basha’s ability to close out games when facing some of the other top competition in the 6A Conference. Friday night, however, the Bears proved them wrong.

Basha matched the physicality of a Highland team that figured to be the first true test for the it this season, as the fifth-ranked Bears knocked off the No. 6 Hawks 24-13.

“It feels really good,” Basha coach Chris McDonald said. “We got tested and we knew it was going to be a challenge. Coach (Brock) Farrel, hats off to him. He took it to us the last two times we played each other so it was good. Kids played super physical which was fun to see.”

The Bears set the tone early with a fumble recovery on Highland’s first offensive play. The Hawk defense, which has for years been one of the top units in the conference, forced a fourth and goal from the 3-yard line. But a good push up front allowed Basha junior running back Deshaun Buchanan to punch it in for the first score of the game.

Highland came out firing on its second possession, which was led in part by senior running back Steven Trujillo and senior quarterback Gage Dayley. The near 80-yard drive for the Hawks was capped off by a 27-yard pass from Dayley to senior wideout and Red Mountain transfer Ethan Svoboda.

The first-quarter strike from Dayley was his only touchdown of the game. He finished the night 13 of 24 for 130 yards and an interception, which came in the fourth quarter while the Hawks were attempting to drive down the field and set up a game-tying two-point conversion.

Dayley credited Basha sophomore Miles Lockhart after the game for the good coverage. McDonald said that and a third-quarter sack by sophomore linebacker Jack Bleier were pivotal moments in the game.

“It’s two sophomores making plays,” McDonald said. “I mean, we put Bleier on the defensive line this week because we knew he added some physicality.”

Highland’s second score of the game came on the ground in the form of a 5-yard score by Carson Mullenaux late in the second quarter. From there, however, Basha’s defense locked down.

The Bears answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass just before the half from Williams to Bryson Dedmond. The connection between the two sophomores set up Buchanan for his second score of the night in the third quarter.

Williams completed 16 of his 23 pass attempts for 207 yards. Nine of those completions were to Dedmond for a game-high 114 yards.

“I just got in the mindset that I carry myself high,” Dedmond said. “I start to believe nobody can guard me.

“I’ve been practicing for moments like this. Now we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Lockhart, who plays alongside the likes of four-star defensive backs Cole Martin and Jeremiah Vessel, was targeted late in the fourth on one of Highland’s final chances to tie the game. He ran toe-to-toe with Svoboda and broke up the long pass.

The sophomore couldn’t help but mutter the words, “this is a big one,” after the game. Basha was counted out by many, and he knew his team answered the call.

“Everybody was going against us. They saw that Mountain Pointe game where we gave up those touchdowns and they thought we couldn’t stop this (Highland) offense,” Lockhart said. “We came out here and showed what we could do and that we are an Open team. It feels great.

“But we are just trying to stay focused. We have confidence but we know we have to play better than this.”

The loss for Highland drops the Hawks to 6-1 on the year. It’s also the first game in a brutal stretch to end the season.

Highland will face No. 2 Hamilton on the road next Friday before taking on top-ranked Chandler and Casteel in the final two weeks of the season.

The road to the Open Division is murkier for the Hawks than the Bears, who are now 8-0 and a virtual lock for the coveted elite eight playoffs at the end of the season.

The Bears will be heavily favored over Cesar Chavez next Friday and will be picked by many to knock off a Mountain View team that bounced back Friday after a tough loss to Red Mountain the week prior. But McDonald knows there is still a task at hand.

“We’re not finished. We’ve got to get better,” McDonald said. “We have to beat Cesar Chavez and then we have to beat Mountain View. That’s our focus right now.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira


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