There are some high school football coaches that believe that going out of state to play a top nationally-ranked team is a good way to start a new season. They want to test their teams early to prepare them for their in-state schedule.
While that may be of some benefit, there can also be unintended consequences that come with it.
Case in point: Chandler High School just returned from a trip to California where they took on Corona Centennial High School, the No. 17-ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings. That seemed to be a safe bet, considering that Chandler was ranked No. 10 on that list.
However, that may not have been such a good idea after all. Centennial manhandled the Wolves, jumping out to a 21-0 lead before Chandler scored its first touchdown, in the third quarter on a Jacob Conover-to-Daseau Puffer six-yard pass play. The 35-13 loss was not the way head coach Shaun Aguano wanted to start the 2018 season.
That loss dropped Chandler to second place on High School Football America’s Arizona Top 5 list, as Saguaro High School, a 4A team in Scottsdale, took over the top spot to open the season. And the Wolves dropped even further on the azcentral sports’ Super 10 rankings of Arizona teams across all conferences, now occupying the No. 4 spot. Again, Saguaro sits at No. 1 on that list.
It’s not a surprise that Saguaro is getting that kind of respect, even though they play two levels below the state’s power programs in 5A and 6A. They set a state record by winning the last five state titles in 4A and came into this season as one of only two nationally-ranked teams in the state.
The Sabercats were ranked No. 60 on the MaxPreps preseason Top 100 list; Chandler was No. 10.
Now that Saguaro has moved to the top of the in-state lists, it may be difficult to dislodge them as the season goes on. There are 19 players on this year’s squad that have D-I scholarship offers in their pockets, one of the better quarterbacks in the state in junior Tyler Beverett, an explosive runner in the backfield in Israel Benjamin, and one of the stingiest defenses in the state.
In the opener against Poston Butte High School, that defense held the Broncos to just three points, while the offense ran up 325 yards and 48 points. Beverett was 8-of-9 passing for 155 yards and a couple of touchdowns, while also adding another 101 yards and two more TDs on four carries. Benjamin carried the ball just six times, but averaged 12 yards a carry.
Chandler will have a chance on Friday to show what it can do against local competition. The Wolves will take on Queen Creek High School, but could be faced with another early test.
The Bulldogs won their opener against Westwood High, 61-0.