Chandler HS football to get tested by nation’s No. 1 Gaels

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                </div>  Better be careful what you wish for, coach. Chandler High School‘s head football coach Shaun Aquano said in an article in USA Today that he was looking forward to […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Better be careful what you wish for, coach.

Chandler High School‘s head football coach Shaun Aquano said in an article in USA Today that he was looking forward to playing Nevada’s Bishop Gorman High School.  It was just announced that the two teams would meet in Las Vegas on August 29, setting up a challenging start to the 2015 season for Chandler; Gorman finished last season as the No. 1 prep team in the nation.

Before Aquano, who took over the Chandler program four years ago, gets too giddy about getting a chance to knock off a football powerhouse, maybe he should reflect on the last time an Arizona team took on the Gaels.

Scooter Molander had similar aspirations last year when his Brophy Prep team agreed to play the Gaels in the Barry Sollenberger Classic, which has become the annual event to kick off a new football season each year, pitting top Arizona teams against the best from Nevada.

Brophy, which is a traditional in-state power in football, struggled in 2013, but figured it could return to championship form in time to take on the reigning Nevada big-school champion.

It didn’t take Molander long to realize his mistake.  Gorman had rolled to a 30-0 lead by halftime and was doing a lot of substituting before the second half had progressed very far, giving his younger players a chance to get some experience as the Gaels coasted to a 44-0 victory.

Now Aquano will take a crack at Bishop Gorman which, by the way, has won the last six state titles in its division. The Gaels ran up a 15-0 record in 2014 and scored 70 points on their opponent in the state championship game.

The lack of better competition in Nevada has the Gaels playing out of state for many of their games.  Last season their first six games were against opponents from other states, and all were Gael victories.  One of those was St. John Bosco, the top-ranked team in the nation that they beat to earn their own No. 1 ranking.

While Gorman has collected six state titles in as many years, the 2014 championship for Chandler was its first in 65 years.  That championship game back in 1949 produced the school’s only trophy and long since has become a faded memory.

But last year the Wolves became the talk of the Chandler community by beating national power Hamilton High, not once but twice, including a 28-7 victory in the state championship game – denying the Huskies an eighth state title since 2000.  The Chandler Wolves finished the season 13-1, with their only defeat a three-point loss to the defending D-I state champs, Mountain Pointe High School, in the fourth game of the season.  And they avenged that loss by beating Mountain Pointe in the playoffs with a 43-22 semifinals win.

The Wolves used a balance attack that averaged 220 rushing yards and 230 yards in receptions to earn a No. 12 national ranking.  They finished the year with 94 touchdowns and an aggressive defense that recorded almost 40 sacks and 15 interceptions on the year.

However, that’s not going to be the same team that takes on Bishop Gorman to begin next year’s quest for a title repeat.  Gone is perhaps the most important part of the offensive effort as the 2015 squad will have to operate without Bryce Perkins, their graduated quarterback who will be working next season to earn some playing time for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Perkins, one of the most highly-recruited high school prospects out of Arizona last year, threw for 3,001 yards his senior year.  He contributed 46 touchdowns with his arm and added another five scores rushing.

The good news is that Chase Lucas will still be in the backfield when the Wolves try to match up with a team that will be expected to challenge again next year for a national title.  Lucas, who was the workhorse for the Wolves last year, will be a senior in the fall.

Lucas had 155 carries last season, more than twice as many as any other back on the roster.  He piled up 1,126 yards rushing and was also one of the team’s top three receivers.  And that’s the other good news.  All three of those receivers – Lucas, N’Keal Harry, and Kolby Taylor – will return next season.  Harry will also be a senior and Taylor a junior.

So, the obvious question mark going into the new season will be at quarterback.  If the Wolves can find a suitable replacement for Perkins, and get him ready in time for the Aug. 29 game, that could make it an interesting start to a new season.

They might also be able to draw some motivation by remembering that Mountain Pointe upset Bishop Gorman just two years ago, beating the Gaels 28-21 in that year’s Sollenberger. And, frankly, Gorman hasn’t had a lot of success against Arizona teams in the Sollenberger.  Their win over Brophy last year is just the second time they’ve won in five appearances.

And this just might be a Chandler team capable of denying them bragging rights for another year.

But it sure would be nice to have Perkins under center just one more time.