It was a wild, high-scoring, emotional bout between No. 3 Chandler and No. 6 Pinnacle on Friday night in the 6A quarterfinals, with Chandler emerging victorious 77-52 in front of its home fans.
The Wolves established the run early with their talented duo of Drake Anderson and DeCarlos Brooks, punishing the Pioneers with power and speed out of the backfield. Chandler didn’t start the game strong, however, falling behind 10-0 after quarterback Jacob Conover’s fumble.
Head coach Shaun Aguano said the Wolves’ focus wasn’t up to his standard before the game and in the early going.
“I just thought we were a little too loose in the locker room,” Aguano said. “I just didn’t think we were really focused. Guys were having too much fun and we came out and went down 10-0.”
Chandler quickly regained its focus, fueled by the play of Anderson and Brooks, who continually picked up big play after big play. Brooks’ 42-yard touchdown run was the first of the Wolves’ 11 touchdowns.
A 27-yard pass from Conover to Brayden Liebrock made it 14-10 Chandler through one quarter. In the second quarter, Conover and Pinnacle quarterback Spencer Rattler traded blows and set their running backs up for scores.
Rattler, an Oklahoma commit and one of the most talented dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, was locked in all night. He went through his progressions, made throws and displayed the poise of a player beyond his years. It just wasn’t enough to swipe the lead back from the Wolves.
“We worked all week on trying to contain him,” Aguano said of Rattler. “You’ve got to do more than contain him. He just has a heck of an arm — he’s a great quarterback and an athletic quarterback.”
A 5- and 66-yard touchdown run by Anderson highlighted an exciting second quarter for Chandler as it took a 42-31 lead into the halftime break. On the first play of the second half, he was back at it again.
Anderson rumbled for a 69-yard run to open the third quarter and stretch the Wolves’ lead to 18. This presented an opportunity for Chandler to pull away.
But Rattler wouldn’t relent. A 10-yard touchdown toss to his favorite target, tight end Hayden Hatten, made it an 11-point game again midway through the third quarter. After Conover threw an interception on the ensuing possession, momentum appeared to be swinging toward the Pioneers.
Enter Gunner Maldanado.
The sophomore safety picked off Rattler in the back of the end zone and ran up the sideline 108 yards for a touchdown, putting his team up 56-38 and seizing momentum back.
A touchdown response from Rattler was met with another game-changing play. Setting up for their first punt of the night late in the third quarter, the Wolves elected to run the fake and Damion Maxwell took a direct snap 46 yards for a touchdown. Through three quarters, it was 63-45 Chandler.
The Wolves’ defense locked down in the fourth quarter and prevented Rattler from mounting a comeback attempt. This set up Conover’s fourth touchdown pass of the night and Anderson’s fifth score on the ground.
Aguano said Anderson has just scratched the surface of his potential.
“His cuts, not just his physicality, is making people get hurt,” Aguano said. “I think we’re going to see more of him next week and in the championship — hopefully we get there.”
Next up for Chandler is a semifinal matchup with No. 7 Red Mountain. The last time these two teams played was the season opener on September 18. Chandler won handily, 42-14.