Just a couple of weeks into the high school football season and it looks like we’re going to shake things out early at the top of the state’s top division.
Pinnacle High School was ranked No. 4 in the azcentral sports rankings when it lost last Friday to No.1 Chandler High, but the north Phoenix school took the Wolves to overtime before falling, 35-28.
And this week, Mountain Pointe High School, the new No. 4 team, will get its chance to upend Chandler, the defending 6A state champion, and move up the ladder toward the top of the mountain.
Mountain Pointe lost its last game, but it was an out-of-state encounter. The Pride was in California taking on undefeated California power, Chaminade High, in the Under Armour Brothers in Arms Classic, a game the Eagles won, 39-25.
And Perry High School, which moved from No. 3 to No. 2 this week, has gone undefeated through its first three games and is waiting in the weeds for its chance to move up the rankings ladder. The Pumas, who are averaging 58 points a game, have outscored their opponents, 173-72.
But Perry, which is 3-0 so far, is as far as it can go in the rankings without some help from No. 1 Chandler. If the Wolves were to lose Friday to Mountain Pointe, and Perry has an impressive outing against Sandra Day O’Connor High School in its next game, it could push Perry to the top. O’Connor is 1-1, but lost by 40 points in its opener to Mountain Pointe. Perry should have little trouble with the Eagles.
Last week’s game against Westwood did little to prepare Perry for O’Connor, except perhaps to point out those areas that need some attention if the Pumas are going to go deep into the playoffs, as most expect to happen.
Despite winning by a 46-point margin, Perry was hampered by mental errors, sloppy play, and way too many penalties. Two touchdowns were called back in the first quarter alone, one because of a holding penalty, the other when an illegal receiver was downfield. Despite that, Perry went into the locker room at halftime with a 47-7 lead and was able to get a lot of players on the field in the second half to get some early game experience.
Over the course of the game, Perry head coach Preston Jones was able to rotate in six different running backs. Perry is deep on both offense and defense. That’s why they’ve been able to beat their first three opponents by an average of 34 points a game.
Westwood (1-2) got a couple of big plays from junior receiver Manny Collier. Without his 75-yard touchdown run and his 95-yard kickoff return for a another TD, this final score would have been even uglier.
The game of the week will, of course, be between Chandler and Mountain Pointe. Chandler has played three games and won two of those, both against local teams – a 42-14 opening win against Mesa’s Red Mountain High School and a tough 35-28 overtime victory over Pinnacle.
In that game last Friday against Pinnacle, the Wolves pulled out the win with a back-up quarterback. Like Perry, Chandler is deep at just about every key position.
Billy Bolger took over under center, filling in while regular starter, junior Jacob Conover, recovers from a shoulder injury suffered against IMG Academy (Fla.) in the second game of the season. So, in Bolger’s first start of his varsity career, the 6’4″ senior threw for 249 yards and five touchdowns.
One of those receptions went to senior running back Drake Anderson on the second play in overtime. Anderson picked his way nine yards through defenders for what turned out to be the winning score, his fourth TD of the night.
No word on whether Conover will be back for Friday night’s game. But it appears he has left things in good hands.
However, that game with Pinnacle gave the already-banged-up Wolves even more concern going into this week’s match-up with Mountain Pointe. One of the best wide receivers in the state, Gunner Romney, left the Pinnacle game in the third quarter with a leg injury and was joined on the sidelines by a couple of injured Wolves’ linebackers and a safety.
Friday’s game will be a home contest for Chandler, an advantage they could probably use right now.