Major upsets mark surprising start to 2012 prep football

Hang on, sports fans.  High school football in Arizona has just been turned upside down.

And we’ve only completed Week 1 of the 2012 season.

When was the last time three of the state’s perennial powers – Hamilton High School, Saguaro High School, and Chaparral High School – all bit the turf on opening night?

And Brophy Prep lost, too, but not its opening game – and not to a local team.  The Broncos, ranked No. 1 in Division I, opened with a 37-14 road victory over Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale – and then turned around a couple of days later and took on California’s Santa Margarita Catholic, ranked by as the No. 1 team in the nation and No. 2 by USA Today.

Brophy wasted little time in securing its opening win Wednesday night against Mountain Ridge, scoring on each of its first three possessions in a game dominated by the pitch&catch team of QB Tyler Bruggman and his favorite receiver, Devon Allen.  The senior quarterback found Allen for two of the night’s biggest scores, connecting on passes of 64 and 70 yards.

But it was a different story on Saturday when the California defending state champion came into Phoenix College‘s Hoy Field to open their season against Brophy.  Despite coughing up four turnovers, Santa Margarita took a 14-7 halftime lead and then held on in the second half for a 27-14 win.

Bruggman, who committed early to Washington State, had more trouble against the Santa Margarita defense, finishing the night 11-of-30 passing for 160 yards.  On the other side of the field, his counterpart, Johnny Stanton, passed for two scores and ran for two more.  Stanton, who has committed to play at Nebraska, directed an offense that totaled 469 yards against the Bronco defense.

However, it was the defense that kept Brophy in the game with timely interceptions and fumble recoveries.  Its biggest play came when D’Amani Grayer blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone with just under seven minutes left in the game to put the Broncos within a touchdown of tying the game.

But a 12-play, 68-yard scoring drive ate up the rest of the clock, as Stanton scored from three yards out to give Brophy just 29 seconds left to close out the game.

The most dramatic upset win of the first week, however, had to be credited to Paradise Valley High School, which beat Saguaro High by a touchdown pass with just one second left on the clock.  Trojan QB Ryan Finley hit Joey Gatewood with a 18-yard strike to seal the win.

Saguaro is the two-time defending state champion in Division III, but lost its most potent offensive weapon when D.J. Foster graduated last year and will be making his debut with Arizona State on Thursday.  With Foster carrying the ball, the Sabercats scored over 700 points last season.

Finley, who will play next year at Boise State, finished the night with 23-of-40 completions for 351 yards, while Saguaro’s junior signal caller, Luke Rubenzer, rushed for 153 of his 200 total yards.

The other shocker in Division I was No. 6 Mountain Pointe High‘s upset of No. 3 Hamilton High School – which has ruled the prep football landscape in Arizona for the past half-decade.  The Huskies’ stunning 45-19 loss to Desert Vista High in last year’s state championship game was the first in 54 games; they have won four of the last six state big-school titles and were nationally-ranked for at least a couple of those seasons.

The opening loss to Mountain Pointe, 17-14, held almost as much drama as the Paradise Valley last-second victory.  The Pride came from behind to tie the score in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 50-yard scoring strike from Antonio Hinojosa to Travonn White, and then stunned the packed stands when Ryan Sheehan split the uprights with a 22-yard field goal with six seconds left to play for the win – the first ever against Hamilton.

And, finally, Chaparral’s plans for a fourth straight championship in Division II hit an early speed bump when it ran into Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic on opening night.  The Lancers provided some drama of their own by driving 73 yards to break a fourth-quarter tie, as Johnny Pena found the end zone on a five-yard scamper for the winning score with 1:17 left on the clock.

The 27-20 Salpointe win was perhaps less of a shocker than the other upsets, since Chaparral is in a re-building mode after changing head coaches and losing its one-two scoring punch to graduation.  Dave Huffine, the team’s offensive coordinator, took over the head coaching duties this season, and he’s without the two-time Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year Davonte’ Neal, who passed the 1000-yard mark in both passing and running as a senior.

Also missing this year is Connor Brewer, the three-year starting quarterback who threw for more than 7,500 yards in a career that included 100 touchdowns.

But Chaparral’s four fumbles and 11 penalties might have had just as much to do with this season’s opening loss.  Even the best teams can’t get away with that very often.

(Photo credit: Santa Margarita Football / Mark Hume)