Chaparral HIgh School is set to play its first game of the 2020 season tomorrow night, weeks after most Arizona high school teams already have several games under their belts.
And you can’t really blame the Firebirds’ players and coaches if they’re still holding out fears that the game may not come off as scheduled. Even at this late hour.
It was just two days prior to their original scheduled season opener three weeks ago that a player on the Chaparral team tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, forcing a 14-day quarantine that pushed the opener back to tomorrow, when they will host Brophy Prep.
Now the Scottsdale power will jump on board in Week 4 to begin playing catch-up.
Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing, in one respect. The Firebirds were originally scheduled to start their season against Saguaro High School, one of the state’s top programs that made it all the way to the finals of last year’s inaugural Open Division state championship. But its new opening match-up with Brophy, a traditional 6A power, pits the Firebirds against a team off to a slow start, winless at 0-3.
Chaparral had an opportunity to open the schedule last week against Hamilton High, a favorite to make it to the state finals, but the Chaparral coaches didn’t feel their players were ready since they had not been able to spend enough practice time in contact work.
But the delayed start has some problems for a team that could potentially challenge for a state title this season. Chaparral was ranked No. 5 on the Arizona Republic’s preseason Top 10 list of teams in the 6A conference, the state’s top division.
First, most of the other teams have weeks of game experience to get up to speed before the playoffs, and second, the Firebirds will only get to play five games, just one more than needed to qualify for the playoffs.
Chaparral was ranked No. 5 on the Arizona Republic’s preseason Top 10 list of teams in the 6A conference, the state’s top division. That lofty prediction is based, in large part. on the fact that the Firebirds return their leading rusher, senior Jared Williams, one of the state’s best running backs who ran for 1,034 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019, then added another 315 yards and four TDs as a receiver.
The core of a potent offense returns from a team that went 8-3 last season, averaging 32 points a game, and is coming off the momentum of a six-game winning streak before losing in the state championship game. Junior Brayton Silbor will step in as starting quarterback after taking over last season for injured starter Jack Miller and putting up 1,129 yards and eleven touchdowns in just five games.
He will be throwing to a couple of seasoned receivers in Max Minor, who caught 30 passes last year for 534 yards, and Capri Hamilton, who contributed 398 yards on 40 catches.
Third-year head coach Brent Barnes has replenished his defense after a couple of key losses and may have a defense even more effective than the one that posted 29 sacks and 93 tackles-for-loss last season. Anthony Lucas, one of the top-ranked defensive linemen in the state, returns as an anchor on the line after a season in which he was second on the team in both sacks and tackles-for-loss.
Lucas, a 6’5″, 285-pound junior, has nearly two dozen major-college offers. He is a four-star prospect, ranked as the 11th-best defensive tackle in the class of 2022 by the 247Sports Composite.
The Firebirds are loaded and ready. They just need an opponent.
And now it looks they will finally get that, too.