Believe it or not, there are other high school football games besides the super-hyped Hamilton vs. Chandler match-up scheduled for Friday night.
It’s just that the brightest of the Friday night lights will be shining down on the game that matches the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in 5A-I competition. The Hamilton Huskies and Chandler Wolves, it can be argued, are also the best two teams in the state. Period.
Which is why ESPN2 will have its cameras at Chandler High School’s Austin Field to feed images of this much-anticipated rivalry game to football fans well beyond the borders of Chandler, which is home to both teams.
The last time the game was televised, four years ago on ESPNU, there were reportedly about 9,000 fans squeezed into Austin Field. And those that wanted seats for the nationally-televised game got there hours ahead of the kickoff to stand in line.
And, if last year’s meeting is any indicator of what’s in store on Friday, it will certainly draw fans looking for some excitement. Hamilton, which is looking for its third consecutive state title, came from behind to beat Chandler, scoring the winning touchdown with just three seconds left on the clock.
It would have marked the first time for a Chandler win in the football rivalry. And the first loss for the Huskies since the 2008 season – a distinction they still hold.
And this year, Hamilton features the top college prospect in the state in senior tackle, Christian Westerman, who will be playing next year at the University of Texas. Chandler counters with one of the best quarterbacks in the country in senior Brett Hundley, who is headed to UCLA to continue his career.
But, for those who don’t want to be included with the rest of the sardines packed in for the game, and aren’t interested in sitting home to watch it on TV, there are other games that are important and worth watching.
There’s the meeting of undefeated 5A-II teams, as No. 1-ranked Chaparral High School from Scottsdale takes on Perry High School in Gilbert, which is also 5-0 and averaging 43 points a game.
Chaparral is coming off a 68-13 blow-out of North Canyon HS, scoring 47 points in the first half alone – against a team that was undefeated prior to that game – and then coasting to its Desert Valley Region opener.
Their exciting brand of football is built around junior running back, Davonte’ Neal, who has scored 10 touchdowns in five games. Neal, who has picked up three of his TDs off punt returns, returned two of them for scores against North Canyon, and then picked off a pass on defense and ran it in for the score.
Perry also coasted to a win last week, going 48-0 against Westwood HS in Mesa to open its East Valley Region play. The Pumas jumped on Westwood early, running up a 28-0 score at the half and then scoring on its first two drives of the second half.
Junior quarterback Josh Uhlorn connected with his wide receiver, Cody Weisenberger, for a couple of scores, and running back, Cedric Simmons, pitched in two more TDs as part of a 161-yard performance.
There are also some games in 4A competition that have the potential to be great match-ups.
In 4A-I, No. 3 Saguaro HS from Scottsdale will try to hold on to its ranking by finding a way to slow the offensive machine of Tucson’s Canyon del Oro HS, the No. 1 team in that division which has outscored its opponents so far this season, 204-36.
Last week, Saguaro dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to Glendale’s Cactus HS, the No. 1 team in 4A-II, for its first loss. Cactus staged a great comeback after being down 21-7 at the half and then used a 67-yard scoring drive to open the second half to get back in the game.
The Sabercats lost the game when it failed on a two-point conversion after an eight-yard catch and score by D.J. Foster tied the game at 41. That failure will be fresh on the players’ minds as they welcome Canyon del Oro to Scottsdale on Friday.
Canyon del Oro is coming off a 49-7 rout of Nogales HS, in which CDO scored on all but two of its drives to run up 221 yards of offense on the ground – while holding Nogales to just six yards rushing.
CDO’s high-scoring offense originates with its quarterback, Jason McBrayer, who connected on 13 of 19 pass attempts last week, finishing with 203 yards and two touchdowns. And it’s high-octane running back, Ka’Deem Carey, will be back in harness after recovering from an ankle injury.
In the other 4A game, Cactus HS must come down from the euphoria of its overtime win against Saguaro to try to stay undefeated as it takes on 4A-I Queen Creek HS, which piled up 525 yards of offense last week in a home contest against Sahuaro HS of Tucson.
Queen Creek just kept handing the ball to its prolific running back, Chim Nga, who carried 26 times for 258 yards of the team’s total 337 rushing yards. The Bulldogs got off to a slow start, ahead just 7-3 at the half, but cruised in the second half to a 34-3 non-region win.
But their defense will have to find an answer to Cactus’ dual-threat quarterback, Deke Cisco, who picked up 166 yards of last week’s offense. His 25 carries included the game-winning score in the overtime.
So there will be other great games being played Friday night. And you won’t have to get there hours ahead to find a seat.