Sports rivalries can be strange animals, even at the high school level. Just ask Eddy Zubey.
Someone should remind Zubey, the head football coach at Gilbert’s Higley High School, how long it took Chandler High School to post its first football win against cross-town rival Hamilton High.
Maybe that will take some sting out of his teams’ loss to Williams Field High School, Higley’s cross-town rival, in the season finale. That 51-14 romp by the Black Hawks marks the ninth straight time Zubey has been unable to notch a win against Williams Field coach, Steve Campbell, a one-time teammate at Arizona State.
However frustrating that loss was, it surely can’t compare to the annual disappointment felt by the Chandler football team as they lost 17 straight games to Hamilton over a 15-year span before breaking through with a huge win in the 2013 season.
Since then, Chandler has owned the rivalry. The Wolves have scored an average 54 points in winning the last three meetings between the two teams. A total role reversal.
That should give Zubey and his Knights a reason to hang in there and keep pounding on Campbell’s door. Their time is coming. Zubey has built a 4-7 team in 2015 into a solid title contender, finishing 11-2 each of the last two seasons and closing out the 2018 regular season 7-3 and sitting at No. 5 in the 5A Conference rankings.
Campbell got a head start on Zubey, who was his defensive coordinator at McClintock High School in Tempe before Campbell left to start the Williams Field program 12 years ago. Zubey took over at Higley in 2011.
With their closing victory, Williams Field (9-1, 5-0), wrapped up its quest for a third straight San Tan region title. And the Black Hawks took care of business in dominating fashion against a good opponent last Friday.
Williams Field relied on one of the top defenses in the state to hold the visiting Knights to just two scores, taking a 23-14 lead at the half and then adding 28 more unanswered points in the second half to coast to its ninth straight win after starting the season with its only loss, on the road to Norco High School in California.
Offensively, it was also all Williams Field. Senior quarterback Zack Shepherd completed nine of his 18 pass attempts for 329 yards and three touchdowns, including a 90-yard TD throw to Myles Taylor as part of a 14-point third quarter. Spencer Brasch, Higley’s normally productive senior QB who has committed to play next year at Cal-Berkeley, was held to just 111 yards on 30 percent passing success. He accounted for both of Higley’s scores.
Senior running back Jaden Thompson provided the punch for Williams Field in its ground attack, rushing for 124 yards and two TDs.
But it was the Black Hawks’ four-star cornerback and safety, senior Noa Pola-Gates, who made big contributions on both sides of the ball. In addition to leading the defensive unit, he contributed to the scoring with a 65-yard reception from Shepherd at the close of the first half that gave his team the nine-point cushion going into the locker room.
Williams Field will ride the momentum from this win into the playoffs, where it is a No. 2 seed, and will host No. 15 Maricopa High in Friday’s first round. Higley, seeded No. 5, will welcome No. 12 Ironwood Ridge High School from Tucson.