For the first 15 years of their cross-town rivalry, Chandler High School couldn’t find a way to beat Hamilton High, which had grown into a state and national power. It took 17 straight losses before Chandler beat the Huskies during the 2013 season.
Since then, Chandler has owned the annual series. The Wolves have won the last four games by averaging 50 points a game.
And then there’s Perry High School, one of the state ‘s top programs that has won at least 11 games a season for three out of the last four years. But the Pumas can’t get past Chandler, either.
The annual meetings between these two teams have also become one of the better rivalries in the state’s top conference. But last year’s 84-49 Chandler blow-out made it seven straight times Perry has come up short against the Wolves.
The point we’re making: Chandler has become a football juggernaut. Every school in the 6A conference is feeling the frustration that Hamilton and Perry have experienced for years.
And this season, Chandler’s opponents in an abbreviated seven-game schedule (necessitated by a delayed start due to COVID-19 precautions) are aware they will be facing off against a state power that is also ranked No. 7 in the nation by MaxPreps and No. 8 by USA Today.
Heck, it didn’t even help that Chandler was breaking in a new coach last season. Rick Garretson, who spent nine seasons as an assistant to Shaun Aquano, took over when Aquano left the program to join the coaching staff at Arizona State University.
The Wolves didn’t skip a beat, finishing Garretson’s first season undefeated (13-0) and went on to win the inaugural Open Division championship that featured the best teams from across all conferences competing to earn the title of “true” state champion.
Chandler no longer rebuilds year-to-year. It just reloads. The Wolves have won 26 straight games, and have not lost to an Arizona team over the last 32 games.
Most amazing: The Wolves are on a mission this season to notch their fifth straight state title.
This season it will have a couple of the key elements from last year’s explosive offense to build on, an offense that averaged 50 points a game. Starting quarterback Mikey Keene is back, as well as his two favorite targets, wide receivers junior Kyion Grayes II and senior Jalen Richmond. Keene, a senior committed to University of Central Florida, threw for 2,835 yards last season, completing 73 percent of his passes.
Grayes and Richmond headline a receiving corps of five players who have all been offered D-I scholarships. Grayes, the top-ranked receiver in the state, has committed to University of Arizona, and Richmond will be heading to Boise State.
The entire Chandler roster has 21 players with scholarship offers, most from D-I programs.
There might be one way to draw up a winning game plan against Chandler: Ask the coaches at Mountain Pointe High School how they did it.
Chandler has lost just five games over the last five seasons to in-state competition. Three of those losses were to Mountain Pointe.
But don’t count on that strategy working this season. The Wolves are expected to be even better than they were last year, with not only a dominating offense but also one of the best defenses in the state.
So, what can the rest of the teams in the 6A conference expect this season?
Answer: More frustration.