Scottsdale high schools trying to find their football mojo

The lights on Scottsdale’s high school football fields have been flickering somewhat as this season gets rolling, as some of the community’s normally top-ranked teams deal with unexpected adversity.

Or perhaps this season it’s just a healthy dose of reality.

Chaparral High School, which has won two 5A state titles and was ranked No. 24 nationally by MaxPreps coming into the season, opened the 2011 season with a crushing 42-22 rout by Nevada’s Bishop Gorman High in the annual Sollenberger Kickoff Classic.  The Firebirds then had to mount a comeback in its game against Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic for a dramatic face-saving 22-21 victory.

The slow start is hard to understand when you consider that Chaparral has a quarterback in Connor Brewer that has been ranked by recruiting analyst Tom Lemming as the second-best pro-style high school QB in the nation, and a wide receiver, Davonte’ Neal, who was the 2010 Arizona Big Schools Player of the Year.  And Brewer is able to operate behind an offensive line that averages 270 pounds.

Notre Dame Prep, which won back-to-back state titles a few years ago in the 4A-II division and has stepped up to a higher level of competition this season, was stunned in its Division II Section III opener when Tempe’s Marcos de Niza High School handed the Saints a 56-6 drubbing.

The Saints will have a chance to rebuild their confidence this weekend in a game they will play in New Mexico, but then next week they run into Hamilton High, which is a top 10 nationally-ranked team.

That leaves Saguaro High School as the lone Scottsdale power still standing.  And they’re doing more than just standing – they’re rolling over opponents.

The Sabercats, who have won four 4A-I state titles in the past five years, opened their Division III schedule in impressive fashion by stomping on Paradise Valley High School, 63-20.  They piled up 756 yards of offense, as senior D.J. Foster accounted for 243 rushing yards and four TDs, while Cameron Larson added 133 more on the ground and Vince Silva pulled in 123 receiving yards.

Larson, who was the leading rusher at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek last year, joined the Saguaro program during the summer and will also make major contributions on defense.

Last night, it was more of the same.  Foster ran up five scores in the first half of the game against Thunderbird High School, last year’s 4A-II champion, to lead the team to a 35-13 halftime lead.  Thunderbird had posted a decisive win in its 28-10 season opener against Desert Edge High School.

But last night they had no answer for Foster’s speed and athleticism.

The 185-pound halfback finished last night’s game with 271 yards and six scores before spending much of the second half on the sidelines, as Saguaro rolled on to another rout, 70-21.

As the game opened, it looked like Thunderbird might be able to hold its own.  The Chiefs ground out a 98-yard scoring drive, with Connor Hustead rolling left from the seven-yard line and squeezing into the tiny corner of the end zone to give Thunderbird a 7-0 lead.

But Saguaro took far less time getting on the board, as Foster scampered for 38 yards for the tying score.  And from there, it was all Saguaro as Thunderbird was unable to stop the speedy senior, who averaged 11 yards a carry last year and is on course to exceed those numbers in his final prep season.

Oh yeah, he can also play wide receiver, return kicks, and contribute on defense.  Last year he recorded seven interceptions from his cornerback position.

Scott Beaudoin pulled in a 42-yard pass from Vinnie Marin to add another score for Thunderbird late in the second quarter, but it wasn’t nearly enough.  Even the 116 yards in penalties in the first half weren’t enough to slow the Sabercats’ relentless offense.

Now they get to sit back tonight and watch the rest of the teams play their regular Friday night schedules.  No doubt, they will be watching to see what happens with Chaparral and Notre Dame.

The Firebirds will take their turn at trying to topple the surging Marcos de Niza, which played for the 5A-II state title just two years ago – losing to (yep, you guessed it) Chaparral in the championship game.

It’s not likely the Padres have forgotten that loss, which should provide additional motivation tonight.