When the No. 1 high school team in the state’s top football division gets upset, as happened Friday night when No. 4 Mountain Pointe High School beat Chandler High, 24-21, it’s big news.
Or when a team that’s won the last four state titles in the 4A division proves it’s still the team to beat by rebounding after back-to-back losses, that’s news. Defending champ Saguaro High romped over Higley High School, 42-14, to stop its losing skid.
But there are other under-the-radar stories that merit attention as well. Two cases in point Friday night include the upset of defending 5A champion Williams Field High School by Verrado High, and Greenway High’s high-scoring battle with Thunderbird High that resulted in a 3-0 start for Greenway.
Mountain Pointe’s victory over the Huskies wasn’t a stunner because the Pride started the season as the No. 2 team in the preseason rankings and only dropped down a few notches following a loss to California power, Chaminade High in the second game on the schedule. And Saguaro’s two losses also came against out-of-state opponents, so Friday’s win makes it 25 straight against in-state opponents. So no real surprise here – despite the fact that Higley came into the contest ranked No. 3 in 4A.
The real shocker has to be Verrado’s 19-9 upset of Williams Field. Verrado had won its first two games – and by big scores, 54-28 over Paradise Valley High and 56-7 over Arcadia High – but lost by a touchdown to Millenium High. So the Vipers showed they could play.
But Williams Field came into this season following an undefeated 2016 and on a 17-game winning streak that dates back to the 2015 season when they lost to Westview High in the state semifinals. They outscored their first three opponents this season by a combined 123-6 score.
…and Friday night Verrado held that offensive juggernaut to nine points. N-I-N-E points.
A pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Titan Widjaja, one to Elijah Johnson and the other to Lateef Hampton, gave Verrado a 13-3 halftime lead. After a scoreless third quarter, senior running back Ja’Tai Jenkins provided the insurance score with a 71-yard touchdown run.
To add to the story line, Verrado has a first-year head coach at the helm. Tom Ward replaced Derek Wahlstrom, who took over a 2-8 program in 2011 and built it into a regular playoff contender the last few years.
And that’s an element to Greenway’s win that is even more relevant to their story. Ed Cook is the third head coach in three years for the Demons and has led this year’s team to a 3-0 start – which marks as many wins as the west Phoenix school has totaled in any of the last three seasons. His predecessors posted 3-7, 3-7, and 2-8 records during that time.
There were a lot of points on the board when the dust cleared from this 47-41 shootout, many of which can be attributed to Greenway quarterback, Tyler Duncan. The junior threw seven touchdowns, completing 22 of 36 attempts for 389 yards.
Both teams had 100-yard receivers on the night, with Thunderbird’s junior wide receiver Kain Ream posting 12 receptions for 172 yards and Greenway senior WR Aaron Lopez putting up 111 yards on four catches.
And it was a big night for Thunderbird running back Andrew Walker, who rushed for 168 yards on 14 carries.