If you’re looking for parity in high school football, you won’t find it among the top three conferences in Arizona.
In this year’s quest for a state championship, Chandler High School beat Perry High for the 6A title, its third in the last four years; Centennial High brought home the 5A gold ball, its second straight and third in the last four years; and Saguaro High continued its domination at the 4A level, winning its fifth straight championship.
Perry (12-2) arguably was the team with the most incentive among the six teams vying for those titles. The school’s football program has never played in a state title game, much less won one. And the previous six times they matched up with Chandler (12-2), the Wolves prevailed in wins that were generally pretty lopsided. One of those, a 62-20 blow-out, came in last year’s state semifinals. The Pumas were on a mission this year.
Case in point would be the Oct. 6 meeting when Chandler hung 56 points on the Pumas in a game that was pretty much decided by halftime. Perry was an offensive juggernaut at the time, undefeated and averaging 59 points a game. But Chandler’s aggressive defense held the Pumas to 27 points.
That was the first game back for Chandler quarterback Jacob Conover, who had been injured in the second game of the season. Conover threw for 127 yards in the first half of that game to give his team a 28-0 halftime lead that put the Pumas in a hole too deep to escape.
Conover again cast his magic spell over the Pumas last night, completing 21 of his 29 pass attempts for 446 yards and four touchdowns as Chandler pulled out a high-octane 49-42 victory at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.
In every sense of the word, however, it was a battle between two of the state’s best quarterbacks as Perry’s Brock Purdy countered the Conover advantage with a gem of his own, throwing 322 yards and five touchdowns, while also running for another 131 yards and a sixth TD.
Purdy, who has largely been ignored by D-I recruiters, made a scholarship statement in his senior year by finishing the 2017 campaign with 4,406 passing yards and setting a new 6A record with 57 TD passes.
With Conover pulling the trigger with efficiency, three Chandler receivers passed the 100-yard mark in receiving: Jarick Caldwell (150 yds.), Gunner Romney (140), and Brayden Liebrock (113).
In the 5A title game, Centennial (13-1) avenged last year’s loss in the state final to Williams Field High School, which kept the Coyotes from four in a row. Centennial posted an impressive 42-21 victory over Notre Dame Prep (13-1) by jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first half.
Centennial’s senior running back Zidane Thomas started the scoring with a 67-yard touchdown run to open the second quarter. Quarterback Ruben Beltran added a second TD on the next drive with a 15-yard sprint to the endzone, and then Thomas hit Dominique Hampton with a 59-yard bomb for the third score.
Thomas, who has proven to be one of the best backs in the state this season, carried 16 times against Notre Dame for 273 yards and finished out his prep career with 2,114 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.
The Coyotes’ defense held a Notre Dame team that has been averaging 258 yards rushing to just 112 last night.
And in 4A, there was no real surprise. Saguaro (12-2) has beaten 35 straight in-state opponents and, even though Salpointe Catholic (12-2) had only one loss this season, the Scottsdale power was favored to win yesterday’s afternoon game as well.
The 28-7 win against the Tucson school set a new state record with five straight state championships.
Saguaro’s senior quarterback, Max Massingale, took control of the game early, directing the Sabercats’ offense to a 21-0 lead before halftime. The first score came on a 35-yard pass to Logan Pettijohn, the second on a Massingale plunge into the end zone, and the third again to Pettijohn.
Massingale finished with 231 yards passing and a couple of TDs and Pettijohn contributed 85 receiving yards and the other two TDs.
Saguaro’s sophomore running back, Bijan Robinson, led all rushers with 159 yards and finished the year with 2,018 yards.
WORTH NOTING… It appears that Centennial head coach, Richard Taylor, has just become the first big-school coach in the state to win six football championships. However, that distinction may not last long. Saguaro’s Jason Mohns led the Sabercats to all five of its consecutive titles and, right now, it’s hard to see who will keep him from collecting a sixth.