Add Chandler HS to list of nationally-ranked football teams

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                </div>  Arizona now has three nationally-ranked high school football programs to start the 2016 season. Less than a month ago, we posted a story about the MaxPreps Top 25 preseason […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Arizona now has three nationally-ranked high school football programs to start the 2016 season.

Less than a month ago, we posted a story about the MaxPreps Top 25 preseason selections that included Phoenix Mountain Pointe High School from Division I and Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School, which moved up last season from D-III to D-II.

Both teams just squeezed into the Top 25, with Mountain Pointe at No. 23 and Saguaro at No. 25.  According to MaxPreps, the top 25 teams were selected from some 15,000 teams across the country that were given consideration.

Mountain Pointe returns 13 starters from a 2015 team that finished the season 12-1 and advanced to the semi-finals in the state tournament.  The Sabercats are coming off their third straight state title and were enjoying a 28-game winning streak before losing the second game on the schedule.

And now Chandler High School has joined in on the early accolades.  The USA Today Super 25 preseason list has them sitting at No. 23, the only Arizona high school to make the list.

The Wolves ran up an impressive 11-2 record last season but lost to eventual champion Centennial High in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.  That was Chandler’s only loss to an in-state school; their other loss was to Nevada’s Bishop Gorman High School, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time, in the second game of the season.

Chandler was among the favorites to win it all last year since the Wolves were the reigning D-I state champion and have moved to an elite level in recent years.  Before winning the state title in 2014, they finished the previous year as runner-ups.

That state title two years ago was the school’s first football championship since 1949 and, almost as important, they beat Hamilton High School, the state’s powerhouse that had won the previous 17 meetings between the cross-town rivals.

They beat the Huskies again last year, by a single touchdown, but Hamilton will return much of their talent from last season’s offense, including running back Jawhar Jordan and wide receiver Chance Brewington, that fueled a 10-2 record – combined with a defense that could be a dominating force again this year.

Hamilton will be waiting for them on their annual date at the end of the schedule.  But, even before worrying about that game, Chandler will have to deal with a Sept. 8 game against Mountain Pointe.

And worse yet, the Wolves open the season against Centennial as part of a rugged schedule that head coach Shaun Aguano calls the toughest among all the D-I programs.

But the Wolves, too, are loaded this season.  They return wide receivers Johnny Johnson and Kolby Taylor. Together, the duo accounted for more than 1,400 yards in catches.  Taylor was the team’s leading receiver with 879 yards.

Senior running back T.J. Green will likely handle the bulk of the running chores.  He was the leading rusher last year, with 1,148 yards and an average of just over 10 yards a carry, and this season will be running behind an offensive line that includes four returning starters.

What Chandler doesn’t have is a returning starter under center.  Three quarterbacks will compete for the starting job, including junior Billy Bolger, who was the back-up for senior Mason Moran who has moved on to Oregon State. But Bolger saw limited playing time in just three games last season, so the competition is wide open.