Oregon State’s gain is Chandler High School‘s loss. And a big loss it will be.
Chandler’s senior running back TJ Green, who has committed to play for the Beavers next season, ran for 233 of the team’s 309 total rushing yards Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium to lead his team to the 6A state championship.
Green carried the ball 30 times and likewise carried the Wolves on his shoulders to their second state championship in three years.
When Chandler won its last state title in 2014, Green was still a sophomore and playing in the shadow of Chase Lucas, a four-star recruit that went on to play at Arizona State. Lucas carried much of the offensive load in the 2015 title game against Hamilton High, but finished with 115 yards rushing – half the yardage that Green just piled up. Green’s number was called twice as often as the 15 carries made by Lucas, who finished with 152 total yards, thanks to another 37 yards in receptions.
Green wraps up his senior season with 2,086 yards and 33 touchdowns.
This was truly a workhorse performance by Green against top-seeded and undefeated Mountain Pointe High School, which had given the Wolves their only loss to an Arizona team in the regular season, embarrassing the Wolves in a 52-7 blow-out in early September.
At that time, the Pride still had Gary Bragg in the backfield. Bragg had already piled up 891 and 11 touchdowns before a season-ending injury in the fifth game. The junior ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns in that September win over the Pointe and the team stacked up 543 yards of total offense.
A healthy Bragg still playing when No. 2-seeded Chandler and Mountain Pointe met for the second time would have made an even bigger spectacle in the title game, pitting two players in contention for best running back in the state.
At first, it looked like the Pride wan’t going to need Bragg this match-up after senior running back Rashie Hodge Jr. blew through the Chandler defense for an 87-yard touchdown run to give his team an early 7-0 lead. But that lead didn’t last long as the Wolves responded with 22 unanswered points to give Chandler a 22-7 lead at the half.
Green scored two of his three touchdowns in the first half and junior wide receiver Jarick Caldwell accounted for the other two scores, one in each half, to finish with four receptions for 103 yards. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Conover completed 12 of his 22 pass attempts for 172 yards and ran for another 34 yards.
Hodge provided the other Pride touchdown, on an 11-yard pass from Noah Grover late in the third quarter. He finished the game with 98 yards rushing and 54 yards on three receptions.
Chandler (12-2) finished the season with 10 consecutive wins and have finally been able to step out of the shadows cast by perennial power Hamilton, their in-town rival that had won 17 straight meetings with the Wolves before Chandler finally broke the streak with a win in 2013. The Huskies went on to win the state title that year, beating Chandler in the semifinals, but since then the Wolves have begun establishing their own legacy. In 2013, they won their first state title since 1949, then advanced to the semifinals last year, and regained the championship this year.
But next year the Wolves will have to face the challenge of repeating without their 2,000-yard rusher.
However, they have some experience in that area. They managed to get over the loss of Lucas when he went off to college. Chances are good that they’ll just repeat the process.