Chandler honors Chris Chick with win

Chandler's captains were joined by William Chick, the father of late assistant coach Chris Chick Friday night during the Wolves' win over Highland.

Chandler head coach Rick Garretson held up a sticker he had placed on his hat for Friday’s game against Highland.

On it, the letters “CC” and “KJ,” honoring two members of the Wolves’ family who passed away in the last year and a half. K.J. Taylor played his senior season with Chandler in 2020 before transferring to his home state of West Virginia to graduate with his childhood friends. He was killed in a shooting last April.

Just over a month later, Chandler offensive line coach and in-game run coordinator Chris Chick passed away suddenly. His family was in attendance for the Wolves’ 10-7 defensive win over Highland. His father, William, joked about the Wolves’ winning by a field goal on a night his son was being honored.

“I was thinking about these two guys a lot tonight,” Garretson said to his team after the hard-fought victory, adding that he likes to win and was OK with how the Wolves managed to do it against the Hawks.

But he did acknowledge they had plenty of things to clean up heading into the final week of the regular season.

“Defense played great,” Garretson said. “That where we’ve always said our strength is and we hang out hat on it. (Highland head coach) Brock (Farrel’s) team played a great game. It was a typical Premier Region game.”

Chandler senior quarterback Blaine Hipa and senior safety Franky Morales led the team onto the field with a No. 72 Chandler jersey, Chick’s number when he played college football at the University of California - Berkeley. His college jersey was carried by Morales.

The two were joined by senior wideout Kyion Grayes and senior linebacker Noah Sauni, the two other captains. William joined them as an honorary captain.

What transpired next, for those who knew Chick, know it would’ve likely made his face turn red.

Chandler’s offense was stagnant against a stout Highland defense. The Hawks’ first drive took more than seven minutes off the clock. The Wolves, on their first possession, managed to find the end zone early in the second quarter off a 2-yard run by senior running back Anyale Velazquez.

But from that point on, a combination of penalties, dropped passes, a lack of execution and perhaps one of the better performances from Highland’s defense hampered Chandler’s ability to find the end zone.

Chandler was unable to capitalize before the half on a field goal. A 54-yard pass from Hipa to Grayes early in the third quarter to put the Wolves inside the Highland red zone resulted in no points as Chandler turned it over on downs at the 8.

The Wolves then had a short field after a bad Highland punt. Hipa was picked off in the end zone then a couple of punts later, another turnover on downs ensued.

At one point in the fourth quarter Chandler had the ball at the Highland one-yard line. But a bad snap and a sack forced the Wolves to take the lead with a 27-yard field goal from Parker Orr. That proved to be the difference.

“We have a lot of things to clean up there on offense,” Garretson said.

Hipa finished 17 of 26 for 192 yards and an interception. Velazquez led the way on the ground with 60 yards and the Wolves’ only touchdown.

With the offense struggling to find a rhythm, the defense shined. Specifically Chandler’s defensive line.

Highland had two long drives throughout the game. The first resulted in a strip sack by senior Aumari Washington. The second came down to a fourth and goal try from the two-yard line. Highland junior running back Chance Cauthen managed to punch it in.

Junior quarterback Joseph Walter was under center for the injured Gage Dayley against the Wolves. He remained poised in the pocket despite constant pressure from Chandler’s front-seven, led by Washington and seniors Isaiah Johnson and Jacob Holmes. The trio repeatedly forced errant passes and batted down balls at the line of scrimmage. They also stuffed Highland’s rushing attack, limiting the Hawks to just 47 yards on the ground.

“We couldn’t afford to lose this one,” Washington said. “We can’t afford to lose at all. Those two drive we came out and were kinda shaky. But we came through in the end.”

Chandler’s secondary was equally as dominant, holding Walter to 70 yards through the air. Morales had two interceptions on the night, the second a game-sealing one with just over a minute on the clock.

“It’s a group effort,” Morales said. “The defense, we’re all one. Same with the offense. We just have to keep doing what we are doing and keep pushing. We knew we had to close it out tonight.”

The win improves Chandler’s win streak to 45. And at 9-0 on the season and No. 10 nationally, it sets up arguably the top matchup in the country next Friday when the Wolves take on rival and No. 15 Hamilton in the Battle for Arizona Avenue.

It also presents an opportunity for the winner of that game to take control of the top seed in the Open Division.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Garretson said. “(Hamilton coach) Mike (Zdebski) has got them playing really well. We’ve got our work cut out for us but we are all looking forward to it.

“The whole state is looking forward to it.”

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


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