The last time Chandler faced a high school football team from Colorado, the Wolves knocked off powerhouse Valor Christian.
Chandler’s defense was dominant in that game, holding Valor Christian to just seven points. Now seven years later, the Wolves faced yet another powerhouse program from Colorado. Cherry Creek entered Friday night’s matchup riding a 25-game win streak and has won back-to-back titles in its home state. Chandler came in also riding a significant win streak of 37 games.
Just like it did in 2014, Chandler’s defense once again held its own against Colorado’s best, as the Wolves put an end to the Bruins win streak in the form of a 17-7 win at Austin Field.
“Our offense is still coming along but we have a pretty good defense,” Garretson said. “We beat a good team. We beat a team on a national stage, we beat a team with a long winning streak, and we beat a team that has back-to-back state championships. I’m pretty happy with that.”
Cherry Creek struck early in its first drive of the contest. After forcing Chandler to punt, the Bruins immediately drove down the field and found the end zone thanks to a 2-yard plunge by senior running back Keegan Halles.
It was the only touchdown Cherry Creek would get on the night, as Chandler’s relentless front-seven put pressure on Bruin quarterback Christian Hammond and limited Halles on the ground.
Hammond finished 5 of 13 for 72 yards. He also threw two interceptions, both of which were picked off by Chandler senior defensive back Travis Roberts. Halles carried the ball 16 times for Cherry Creek but managed only 42 yards.
Overall, Chandler’s defense had four takeaways. Roberts was tasked with defending Cherry Creek’s Ky Oday, one of the top receivers in Colorado and the nation. He had just two catches for 47 yards.
“I took the challenge in trying to take (Oday) out of the game,” Roberts said. “They wanted us to arrive angry and tackle angry, and that’s what I did whenever I came up to him. We knew their offense would be similar to Centennial’s and they would try to run it at us downhill, but we were up for the challenge.”
After their first drive stalled to start the game, Chandler’s offense marched down the field and answered Cherry Creek’s early score. Senior athlete Quaron Adams capped off the Wolves’ drive with sweep to the right that he took 14 yards for the score.
Adams, an Iowa State commit, has been leaned upon early this season by the Wolves with wideout and Ohio State commit Kyion Grayes sidelined for at least half the season after he suffered a dislocated elbow in the team’s scrimmage.
Adams was key for Chandler in last week’s win over Centennial, and his first-quarter touchdown not only evened the Wolves with Cherry Creek early on but provided a spark to the offense overall.
“I’m glad I could put my offense in better situations and make big plays,” Adams said. “I just have to keep my composure. I try not to stress myself too much because I know there are younger guys looking up to me as a role model. I just try to stay as cool, calm and collected as possible and lead the guys.”
Chandler was without starter and transfer from Hawaii Blaine Hipa, who was sick all week and unable to practice. Ethan Moore, a transfer from San Diego, got the start over KJ Cooper, another quarterback transfer from Texas.
Garretson was pleased with the way Moore composed himself in a game heavily dominated by both defenses. Cherry Creek had size up front and defensive backs that, on most occasions, were able to keep up with Chandler’s speed on the outside to limit open targets.
Still, Moore managed to find senior wide receiver Junior Nsubuga for a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter to extend the Wolves’ lead. He finished 20 of 25 for 203 yards and the touchdown.
“I thought Ethan did a good job,” Garretson said. “He hasn’t played in two years. It was a whole learning thing for him. He made some good decisions. We needed someone to step up and he did a nice job with that.”
Garretson credited Cherry Creek and coach Dave Logan for his team’s poise throughout the night. He believes the Bruins showed why they have become one of the most dominant programs in Colorado.
But aside from playing for its own win streak, Chandler wanted to represent Arizona at a high level against national competition. Other coaches, including some rivals, reached out to Garretson, and wished him and his team luck ahead of kickoff on Friday.
“We got a lot of messages from a bunch of guys today,” Garretson said. “Head coaches, some rival coaches, about repping Arizona the right way. That’s what we set out to do.”