Despite the hype, Hamilton & Chaparral will repeat in 5A

They’ve done what they could to hype Monday night’s 5A state high school football championship games.

To get you to leave work early and then drive through rush-hour traffic all the way out to University of Phoenix Stadium.  And to try to convince you that there is still some doubt about the outcome of either game.

Is it working?

This week, the AIA promoted the 5A-I game between Hamilton HS and Desert Ridge HS and the 5A-II match-up of Chaparral HS and Centennial HS at the usual pre-game news conference.  The governing body did what it could to raise the level of anticipation.

Fox Sports Arizona, which will televise the games, even got the teams to switch start times, so that the heavily-favored Hamilton Huskies can run their consecutive win streak to 40 games and wrap up their third consecutive state crown in the 4 o’clock game.  They’re already conceding that one.

Hamilton (14-0) wears its opponents down with an offensive line that averages over 300 pounds, anchored by Texas-bound Christian Westerman, the top college prospect in the state.

Their balanced attack is directed by Kyren Poe, a senior that hasn’t received much attention this year because there is so much other talent on this team.  He has almost 2,000 yards passing and four touchdowns, with a couple of favorite targets in Tanner Clay and Kendyl Taylor, who have combined for 14 TDs to lead the air attack.

Desert Ridge was a dark horse that came from the back of the pack to slip into the championship picture.  They did it despite losing their quarterback to an injury in mid-season.

But the Jaguars’ junior receiver, Jordan Becerra, stepped into the QB slot and has been nothing but impressive in that role.  He and junior running back, Joey Counts, have carried the Jaguars through some close calls to get to the school’s first championship game.

But Hamilton is motivated to win a 40th straight game and third consecutive state title, to make it the first 5A team in Arizona to accomplish the hat trick. And they aren’t going to let a dark horse get in the way.

So the almost-as-heavily-favored Chaparral Firebirds have been moved back to the nightcap, to take on the Coyotes in prime time.

Centennial has been the dominant force in 5A-II football in recent years and is probably the most likely in this year’s field to pull off an upset of the Firebirds.  The Coyotes won 39 straight games before losing to Marcos de Niza HS in the state semi-finals last year.

But, as good as they are, it can be argued that Chaparral is just that much better.

Chaparral has an awe-inspiring offense that has put 695 points on the board this season enroute to a 13-0 season.  The Firebirds’ junior quarterback, Connor Brewer, has thrown for 2,558 yards and 36 touchdowns.  He is 26-1 as a starting quarterback.

Much of his success this year can be attributed to the fact that he is throwing to the Gatorade Arizona Football Player of the Year, Davonte’ Neal.

The 5’10”, 173-pound junior plays cornerback on defense, where he has returned four picks for scores, and receiver on the other side of the ball, where he has 31 catches for 829 yards.  He also returns kicks on special teams and has 364 yards and eight TDs rushing.

Centennial has just one loss and has been able to win with its speed, which it will need to try to match up with the Firebirds.  The Coyotes are averaging 376 yards of offense.

Their  signal-caller is Justin Sanchez, who has compiled 1,221 yards passing and has 12 touchdowns.  The junior has a 68 percent completion rate, primarily to Hayden Sovacki, Julien Singleton, and Gary Ross.

And senior running back, Vegas Johnson, has stacked up 1,134 yards rushing and averages over seven yards a carry.

But Centennial will have a tough time matching up against the Chaparral firepower and a defense that is fast, mobile, and anchored by one of the best secondaries and linebacking corps in the state.

If you’re looking for some exciting football, make the drive to Glendale Monday night, or catch it on TV.

But don’t expect much more than a replay of last year, when Hamilton and Chaparral brought home the hardware.