152-0. That’s your first clue.
It’s the combined score in two of the first-round games in the Open Division in high school football. Chandler High routed Desert Edge HS, 52-0, in the quarterfinals, while neighboring Hamilton High rolled over Corona del Sol HS in similar fashion, 50-0.
There are still a couple of semifinal games to be played, but there’s little mystery about who will play in the title game.
Chandler (8-0) has only to beat No. 5-seeded Liberty High School (6-3), which barely squeezed past No. 4 Centennial HS in a 25-24 nail biter to advance to the semifinals. Hamilton (7-1) will face off with No. 6 Salpointe Catholic (6-0), which had a first-round bye since Saguaro HS was forced to drop out of the playoffs after a COVID-19 outbreak.
And now the virus is about the only thing that would prevent the cross-town rivals from meeting on Dec. 12 to determine whether Chandler will repeat as the Open Division champion.
No disrespect to either Liberty or Salpointe, but they’re just not equipped to handle either of those teams. It’s all about talent; between the two Chandler teams, there are more than two dozen college scholarships on the rosters. An upset in either semifinal game would be hard to imagine.
Chandler wasted no time in Friday night’s game displaying the power game that Liberty can expect to see, scoring on its first four possessions. Three of those scores came compliments of senior running back Eli Sanders, the fourth was courtesy of a Crew Peterman field goal.
Hamilton, too, relied heavily on its running backs in its game against Corona del Sol. For the Huskies it was a two-headed monster that ran at will against the Aztecs’ defense. The senior tandem of Noah Schmidt and Rodney Clemente accounted for all seven of the Huskies’ touchdowns.
But the real story of the night for Hamilton might have been the quarterback play. The team’s back-up quarterback, Roch Cholowsky, had to step in for injured starter Nicco Marchiol. The sophomore rose to the occasion, completing 11 of his 14 pass attempts for 129 yards and directing an offense that racked up 478 total yards.
Meanwhile, a smothering Hamilton defense held the Azecs to 72 total yards.
For Chandler, it was business as usual as the Wolves’ offense was directed by their regular starting QB, Mikey Keene. And the senior did what he’s been doing all season long — win big.
Keene piled up 408 passing yards on a 26-for-36 performance. He spread the ball around among a handful of receivers, but found his wide receivers, Jalen Richmond and Marcus Moore, for his two passing TDs of the night.
When these two teams reach the title game two weeks from now, they will be meeting for the second time this season. Their first clash came on the final game of the regular season, just nine days ago, when Chandler proved to be a very inhospitable host, sending the Huskies home with a 34-14 loss.
But this time, the stakes will be higher. Hamilton should be more motivated.
However, denying Chandler a second straight Open title will still be a very high mountain to climb.