For the third time in just four years, the Chandler Wolves captured the 6A State Championship with a win over another Chandler Unified School District opponent in Perry, 49-42, Saturday night in Tucson.
“It’s just incredible,” Chandler head coach Shaun Aguano said after Chandler’s win. “ We start in January and end in December and it’s just a lot of work and too finish it is just incredible and I am so happy for our kids.”
Heading into their 6A State Championship matchup both Shaun Aguano and Preston Jones complemented their opposing defenses and guessed that their second meeting of the year would come down to whomever could get more stops. Through the first half, that showed true.
Both offenses were forced to punt, Perry punted five times and Chandler just twice, but holding either of these two offenses silent is a tall task. It was the first timers that struck first. After converting a 4th down run, Perry’s Brock Purdy scampered into the end zone on a patient run from 15 yards out.
It took the Wolves just over two minutes to answer with a quick, yet calculated offensive drive. Drake Anderson punched it in from six yards out with 3:46 left in the first. Chandler’s first score came after junior quarterback Jacob Conover found junior wide receiver, Brayden Liebrock, for a 56-yard gain to set up Anderson’s 30th touchdown of the season. It wasn’t the only time, Liebrock would have an impact in the first half.
This is where both defenses began to shine, holding their opponents till the 4:44 mark of the second quarter. Facing a fourth down situation for the second time in the first half, the Pumas elected to go for it and it paid off.
Purdy scrambled for a five yard gain and then went right back to the run, scampering for a 15 yard gain. Three plays later, the senior quarterback threw his 53rd touchdown pass of the season, finding Connor Boyd from nine yards out to give the Pumas their second lead of the ball game.
But like they did all night long, the Chandler Wolves marched down the field easily. First, Conover found senior wideout for consecutive 10-plus yard gains and then connected with UNLV commit Jarick Caldwell for a 66-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to tie the game at 14.
After Perry was forced into their fourth punt of the first half, the Wolves turned in one of their quickest drives of the night, a four play 60-yard drive that lasted 33 seconds. Conover found senior wideout Tre Hart for a 30 yard gain down the left sideline and the Wolves benefitted from a Perry late hit that put them on the 9-yard line. Two plays later, Conover found Liebrock from four yards out to take a 21-14 lead going into the half.
In the second half, the offenses kicked it up a notch and both defenses seemed almost helpless.
To start the half, the Wolves marched down the field in a methodical fashion and Anderson punched it in from two yards out. The Pumas blocked the PAT and the Wolves led 27-14, early in the third quarter.
Purdy answered by finding D’Shayne James from 12 yards out to bring the Pumas within six. But, it was a back and forth battle all night long and the Wolves weren’t within six points for long. With 4:36 remaining in the 3rd, Conover found his favorite target, Gunner Romney, from 46 yards out to put the Wolves up 34-21.
One of the keys to the Pumas season, has been resiliency and Perry showed it on their very next drive. After UNLV commit Chris Manoa sacked Purdy from the blindside, the start quarterback fumbled. Fortunately, the Pumas recovered setting up Purdy for his next heroic feat. It was a 46-yard pass to Kyle Patterson for another six and bring the score to 34-28.
The two teams would continue to trade touchdowns. Anderson broke off a 43-yard scamper, breaking four tackles on the way to the endzone. Then, Purdy found James for another score, this time from 65 yards out. Chandler’s final score came when Conover connected with Romney once again, to put the Wolves ahead for good and capture their 3rd 6A State Championship in four years.
“This is just awesome the team did a great job and we have amazing fans who came all the way down here to Tucson and supported us and it was just an amazing effort,” Conover said after the game.
The two teams put up 91 points in a state championship game that will go down in history. After the game, Aguano admitted that he was expecting a shootout with two of the top quarterbacks in the state going head to head.
“I knew it was going to be a battle with Brock Purdy, he’s tough, and they have athletes and they made plays and I was just hoping our offense made plays and they made great plays. It was just incredible.” Aguano said.