All the pre-game hype and expectations that swirled around the state football finals in Arizona’s top high school divisions set the stage for what was supposed to be a couple of slugfests.
But what fans actually got was far from what they expected. The slugfests turned into one-sided disappointments.
Oh, there was plenty of offense. It just wasn’t divided up equally. The winning teams in the 5A and 6A contests put up 125 points. The losers managed just a combined 35 points.
Both of the winners, Chandler High School in 6A and Centennial High in 5A, were repeat winners, with Chandler (13-1) making it three titles in a row — and made it look easy.
Chandler’s 65-28 rout of Perry High can be summed up in two words: DeCarlos Brooks. The senior running back who will be playing for the California Golden Bears next year ran roughshod over the Pumas for four long quarters Saturday, carrying the ball 33 times to pile up 334 yards.
But you can’t say Perry (11-3) didn’t see this coming. When the two teams met in the regular season, Brooks had 43 carries and 246 yards to lead the way to a 45-34 victory. And the Pumas have plenty of experience in dealing with losing to Chandler – this title loss is the ninth straight time the Wolves have come out on top, including last year’s loss to Chandler in the title game.
Brooks ran for 149 of those yards in the first half and contributed three touchdowns to building a 27-7 halftime lead. Senior quarterback Jacob Conover, who has led the Wolves to the last three titles, tacked on the fourth TD. He finished with 198 yards on 13-for-18 passing.
Perry continued to fight as the second half opened, closing the gap to 13 points by driving 50 yards and scoring on a 33-yard run by Jaden Burns. But Brooks wasted no time responding, taking the first play from scrimmage to the house with a 58-yard run. Chandler closed the third quarter with a 51-21 advantage to essentially wrap up the win early.
This win marks the 13th in a row and the fourth state title for Chandler in the last five years.
In the 5A game, there was even less suspense about the pending outcome. Centennial was up 39-0 on Notre Dame Prep at halftime and the Coyotes’ defense didn’t allow a Notre Dame score until late in the third quarter. By that time, the Centennial offense had put 53 points on the scoreboard and went on to close out a 60-7 drubbing of the previously undefeated Saints.
The scoring downpour on the Saints really began in the second quarter when Centennial wide receiver A.J. Jackson destroyed the Notre Dame secondary, running up 147 yards in receptions and scoring three touchdowns. He finished the game with 264 all-purpose yards.
It was apparent from the opening drives by both teams which way the game was headed. Notre Dame (13-1) turned the ball over when Centennial linebacker Cire Fields intercepted Jake Farrell, and Centennial (14-0) used its opening drive to put up the first score of the game when quarterback Jonathan Morris ran 64 yards for the TD on the third play of the drive.
Morris finished with two touchdowns, completed six of 13 pass attempts for 85 yards, and added 73 yards rushing. Notre Dame quarterback Jake Farrell was 20-for-41 for 218 yards – but threw five interceptions. Three of those were snagged by Eric Haney.
This is the seventh football state championship racked up by Centennial head coach Richard Taylor, who has taken 11 teams to the state championship game.