It began the night of Nov. 28 when Chandler High School‘s football team prepared to face cross-town rival Hamilton High, dreaming of a state championship win over the school that has haunted them for more than a decade. Until this year, Hamilton had won all 17 meetings in the last 15 years.
When the Wolves awoke the next morning, the dream had come true. They were the 2014 Division I state champions.
They had beaten the state’s powerhouse, a team often ranked in the national standings for high schools, earlier in the season and were favored to do it one more time to avenge the fact that Hamilton had denied them the title the year before by beating the Wolves in the semifinals.
Chandler didn’t disappoint, using its defense to score the first two scores of the game and put the Huskies in a 13-0 hole. The Wolves held down a team that had been averaging 37 points a game to post a 28-7 victory.
To make the event all the more memorable, it was the school’s first state championship since 1949.
But the euphoria hasn’t waned since that historic win. The dream has continued evolving into the new year.
In March it was announced that a game had been scheduled against Bishop Gorman High School, the Nevada football power that has won the last six state titles in its division and finished the 2014 season as the No. 1 prep team in the country.
Then, last month MaxPreps and CBS.com issued their annual pre-season Top 25 rankings and the Chandler Wolves were on the list, sitting at No. 17 among the best programs in the nation.
And now Chandler is getting to share an even bigger spotlight on the national stage.
ESPN just announced last week that the Wolves will be included in a slate of 10 nationally-televised games that will kick off the 2015 high school football season. Their Aug. 29 game is one of three that will feature a collision of two state champions.
The teams selected for the season-opening slate of games hail from 10 different states and include nine defending state champions. And that means this will also be a showcase for some of the top college prospects in the Class of 2016.
Chandler finished the 2014 season with a 13-2 overall record, 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. However, they avenged that loss by beating the Pride in the playoffs, 43-22, in a semifinals game.
The Wolves finished the year with a No. 12 national ranking after averaging 450 yards of offense per game and racking up 94 touchdowns. Their defense was just as effective, recording 40 team sacks and 15 interceptions.
But the guy that pulled the trigger on that power offense won’t be back to lead the Wolves against the Gaels next month. Bryce Perkins, the quarterback who threw for 3,001 yards and 46 touchdowns in his senior year, will be playing for Arizona State in the fall.
The good news is that Chase Lucas will be returning for one more season. The senior running back was the workhorse last year, carrying the ball 155 times, more than twice as many as any other back on the roster. He finished his junior season with 1,126 yards.
Lucas was also one of the top three receivers and both of the other two, N’Keal Harry and Kolby Taylor, will also be back to help take on the Gaels.
The likely replacement for Perkins is Mason Moran, a safety last season that is being converted to quarterback.
Moran has committed to play for Oregon State after leaving Chandler. The game against the country’s No. 1 prep team on national television should go a long way in preparing him to play at the next level.
But… could there be a tougher way to start a new job?