It’s usually somewhere around the middle of the high school football season that the ‘pretenders’ begin to separate themselves from the ‘contenders.’ But this season the process might be getting an early start.
The biggest surprise came in 6A, the state’s top conference, where Pinnacle High School, which started its schedule with a No. 2 preseason ranking, and No. 3 Perry High were expected to slug it out in a close contest. But that didn’t happen.
Pinnacle used an aggressive, and effective, defense and a potent offense behind senior quarterback J.D. Johnson to build a 19-14 halftime lead and then blew the game wide open in the second half on the way to a 39-14 rout. An 11-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to wide receiver Marcus Libman midway through the fourth quarter ran the score to 32-14 and effectively put a lid on the win.
The game was billed as an early match-up between two of the state’s top quarterbacks, but Perry’s senior QB Chubba Purdy had trouble finding the right gear as the Pinnacle defense gave him little running room and kept him contained throughout the entire second half, while holding the Pioneers scoreless.
That defense also coughed up three second-half Perry fumbles and held the Puma’s running game to minus yardage after halftime.
Purdy has committed to the University of Louisville and Johnson will be heading to Ann Arbor to play for the Michigan Wolverines.
When Johnson wasn’t picking apart the Perry secondary, he was able to hand the ball off to his senior running back, Matthew Goodlow, who broke the century mark in yardage in his first game back after being sidelined most of last season with injuries.
This game was particularly important for both teams, beyond the need to open the season on a high note. Both started the season ranked among the top 10 teams in the Super 10, a compilation of teams from across all conferences, with Pinnacle at No. 5 and Perry at No. 6. When the schedule is done, the top teams from all conferences combined will compete in an eight-team playoff bracket to play for the title in a newly-created Open Division.
A poor performance in even one or two games could mean missing the cut. Perry’s margin for error just got much thinner.
In 5A play, Higley High School, also a top 5-ranked team in their conference, met a fate similar to that of Perry. However, the 39-point season-opener loss for Higley was much tougher to swallow.
The Gilbert school invited Bishop Alemany High School from Mission Hills, Calif., to open its 2019 schedule. So the 55-16 thumping by one of California’s better programs was in front of Higley’s home crowd.
It didn’t take the Warriors long to quiet the partisan crowd, scoring a couple of quick touchdowns early in the first quarter. The Higley defense couldn’t contain the Warriors’ passing game as junior QB Miller Moss shredded the secondary for 306 yards and a couple of TDs, and the Alemany running game added the other six touchdowns while piling up 349 yards on the ground.
Higley’s junior quarterback, Kai Millner, was able to put up 177 passing yards and a touchdown, to junior wide-out Truitt Robinson. The other score came from an 11-yard run by senior Isaiah Eastman.
Unlike Perry’s misfortune, the Higley loss didn’t drop the school in the 5A standings. Actually, the Knights now occupy the No. 4 slot in the rankings, which is up from their preseason No. 5 position. (Go figure.)
However, that’s little solace after getting pushed around their own field on opening day. Tough way to start the season.