It sucks to have to compete in the 5A football conference this season. After seven weeks, four of the top 5-ranked teams are still undefeated.
But last night the last two undefeated teams among the top five schools in 4A and 6A fell. And fell really hard.
While the top four in 5A — No. 1 Centennial High (7-0), No. 2 Queen Creek (8-0), No. 3 Notre Dame Prep (6-0), Cienega High (7-0) — held on to their perfect starts, Perry High School in 6A and Cactus High in 4A lost their unbeaten status in most embarrassing fashion.
No. 3 Chandler High scored 55 points on top-ranked Perry in a game that was pretty much decided by halftime, while No. 5 Cactus was unable to put a single point on the board in a 54-0 blowout by No. 2 Sunrise Mountain High School.
Coming into last night’s games, Perry looked every bit the favorite to wrest the 6A state title from defending champion Chandler. The Pumas were an offensive juggernaut, averaging 59 points a game and three times scoring more than 55 points on their opponents on the way to a 6-0 record.
And Cactus built its 6-0 mark by averaging 45 points a game. If you removed their uncharacteristic low-scoring 13-6 win over Marcos de Niza High in the second game on the schedule, the Cobras would have averaged 51.6 points a game.
But last night, that didn’t mean a thing as both high-octane offenses were held in check by fast, aggressive defenses that smothered the run game and kept quarterbacks scrambling.
Chandler (6-2) is a story this season of two different teams, the one that lost two of its first four games, and the one that has been blowing away the opposition during the last four games. The Wolves scored 51 points against O’Connor HS, 59 against Mountain Ridge HS, and 58 against Basha HS before meeting up with Perry.
You could see this one coming. Perry just happened to be the next team standing in the way of Chandler’s march back to the state finals. The 55-27 win makes it four straight games of 50+ points for the Wolves.
The thing that makes Chandler all the more dangerous the rest of the way is the return of starting quarterback Jacob Conover, one of the best in the state who has been out of the line-up since being injured in the second game of the season. The junior, whose pocket-full of college offers includes one from Alabama, threw for 172 yards in just the first two quarters to lead his team into the locker room with a 28-0 lead.
The Wolves added another quick score as the second half opened at Chandler’s Austin Field, thanks to a 61-yard run by junior running back Decarlos Brooks and a one-yard plunge into the end zone by senior running back Drake Anderson. That was one of four TDs Anderson would contribute to the win.
Before Chandler coach Shaun Aquano began clearing his bench in the fourth quarter, the Wolves had run up a 48-6 lead in a thoroughly dominating performance.
It was much the same story over in Peoria where Sunrise Mountain’s 6’3″ junior quarterback, Keegan Freid, threw for 162 yards in the first half as the Mustangs took a 21-0 lead into intermission. Freid finished the night with 15 completions on 19 attempts for 249 yards and three touchdowns – and also added a rushing TD to the night’s work.
Sunrise Mountain added four more touchdowns before the fourth quarter started, which led into the requirement for a running clock for the final frame.
The Mustangs made it difficult for the Cactus defense by spreading around the offensive contributions as Sunrise piled up 451 total yards of offense. Senior running back Derick Bangle finished with 88 yards rushing, while Jay Anderson and Angel Ruiz each added 46 more on the ground.
Junior wide receiver James Hansen was a big target for Freid, scoring a pair of touchdowns on 82 yards receiving. Ruiz, who plays running back and wide receiver, pulled in five passes for another 81 yards, and junior WR Anderson added 79 receiving yards.
But credit the Mustang defense for a major contribution to this win. It held Cactus’ all-star running back, Demaria Norris, to just 52 yards rushing. The 5’10”, 195-pound senior has been running over opponents this season, averaging eight yards a carry and 185 yards a game.