Week 1 finds AZ’s top prep football teams out of state

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                </div>  Two of this week’s top high school football games involving Arizona Division I teams won’t even be played in this state. Chandler High, the top-ranked team in D-I, will travel […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Two of this week’s top high school football games involving Arizona Division I teams won’t even be played in this state.

Chandler High, the top-ranked team in D-I, will travel to Las Vegas to take on the No. 3 team in the country (according to USA Today), Bishop Gorman High School.  No. 4 Mountain Pointe High School will head out in the opposite direction to play at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles for a scheduled match-up with one of California’s top teams, Bakersfield High.

Both games will be played tomorrow instead of the traditional Friday night to allow for travel time.  The Chandler-Gorman game will be between two nationally-ranked prep teams since the Wolves are on the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national ranking at No. 16 and USA Today at No. 20.

In the MaxPreps composite rankings, Gorman is the top-ranked team in the country, while Chandler is No. 11. ESPNU will televise Saturday’s game at the Gaels’ state-of-the-art Fertitta Field.

This will be the first game of the season for both Gorman and Bakersfield, but Chandler and Mountain Pointe already have a game under their belts since many Arizona teams got an early start in what is being called “Zero Week.”

(*Update: Mountain Pointe made its road trip worthwhile, coming back from a five-point third-quarter deficit to squeeze out a 43-40 victory behind quarterback Jack Smith who passed for almost 300 yards.  Chandler fell to Gorman, 35-14, in a game that saw the Gaels take a 14-7 lead in the first quarter and hold off Chandler the rest of the way.)

Chandler, the reigning Division I state champ, opened against Pinnacle High and the Wolves showed they deserved the national ranking, scoring on an 80-yard run by Chase Lucas on the first play from scrimmage, putting up 28 points in the first quarter, and going on to post a 56-10 rout on the road.  The Pioneers didn’t get on the board until midway through the third quarter when Jeff McGuire kicked a field goal, and scored their only TD in the final quarter on a William Zupke run.

The Wolves’ senior quarterback Mason Moran was in mid-season form already, completing 13 of 14 pass attempts for 180 yards and two touchdowns.  And that was in a game shortened by the required mandate of a running clock midway through the third quarter after Chandler had spread the lead to 42-0.

And Pinnacle was no patsy.  The Pioneers went 10-2 last season and came into the 2015 campaign ranked No. 9 in Division I.  But the Pioneers graduated their starting quarterback, Brian Lewerke, who directed last year’s offense to 446 yards a game.  The starting QB for the opener, Spencer Rattler, is a freshman and not quite ready for prime time.

In tomorrow’s game with Gorman. Chandler will find itself the underdog, despite a strong showing last week.

The Gaels, who have won the last six state big-school titles, return a solid core of seniors and seven starters on offense.  Their returning starter at quarterback, junior Tate Martell, threw for 2,537 yards last season, and ran for another 433, to account for 48 touchdowns.  His primary receiver, junior Tyjon Lindsey, is also back after pulling in 34 passes last year while accumulating 1,313 yards and 15 TDs.

In the other out-of-state battle, Mountain Pointe will be taking on a California power that has strung together 10 consecutive winning seasons and captured the state title two years ago.  Bakersfield High went 9-3 last season, but stumbled down the stretch, losing two of their final three games.

The Drillers did little passing last year (46 yards per game) but featured a powerful running game, using two quarterbacks that each rushed for close to a 1,000 yards and combined for an average 208 yards each game on the ground.  However that may change this year since both Marcus Bruce and Lameshio Hill were lost to graduation.

So it looks like Mountain Pointe may be the team bringing in the better running game tomorrow.  The Pride gobbled up 321 yards on the ground against Marcos de Niza High School, a top 10-ranked team in Division II, en route to a 24-12 opening win.  Senior running back Macarius Blount accounted for 211 of those yards on a busy night of 30 carries and will present a real challenge for the Bakersfield defense.

But there was no domination in this game, as there was in Chandler’s opening win.  The Pride took a 14-6 lead into halftime, but found it difficult to shake off the Padres, who finished the game with 245 total yards.  Marcos was still just five points behind late in the fourth and the Pride didn’t put this one on ice until Blount found the end zone for his second TD of the game, scoring on a nine-yard run with 2:37 left to play.

This game won’t have all the hype of the Chandler-Gorman contest, but would be a big early-season boost of confidence should the Pride be able to take down one of California’s best teams.