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GRIDIRON ARIZONA

Your Source for 6A & 5A High School Football Scores, Schedules, and Power Points

Travel a big hurdle at Lake Havasu

Knights find passing game in 2017, keep Golden Shovel

WEEKLY BLOG:  12/31/17

A look at the 5A Desert West Region shows teams from Buckeye with Verrado, Goodyear with Desert Edge, Avondale with Agua Fria, North Phoenix/Glendale schools that are part of the Deer Valley District with Goldwater and Deer Valley, and one other school - Lake Havasu.  For those that have never made the trip to the northwest corner of the state and have just seen the name appear in score records, the high school isn't like those in Metro Phoenix.

For starters, Lake Havasu City is about 200 miles away from the center of Phoenix.  For road games, the bus heads south on Highway 95 to the I-10, then enters the Valley from the west into Buckeye and Avondale.

"It's a unique place with the amount of travel," Lake Havasu head coach Karl Thompson said.  "It's a very supportive community, though."

Thompson has been with LHHS since 1999 and has coached girls basketball and softball in addition to football.  He just completed his ninth season as the head coach of the Knights.  His wife, Kari, coaches volleyball and softball and played for the Knights in her high school days.

For Thompson, when he moved to Lake Havasu, the destination seemed far from rural.  He came from Pineville, West Virginia (population 668). 

Lake Havasu City is technically considered part of the Las Vegas statistical area.  It is isolated from the rest of Mohave County and is the largest city there at just over 50,000 residents.  It was originally established in 1963 and the high school opened six years later.  It is known as a tourist destination for spring breakers and for those wanting to see the London Bridge (yes, that London Bridge) which is not falling down, but crosses a channel of the Colorado River.  In the winter, Havasu gets its share of temporary residents with retirees from the Midwest and Canada escaping those snow-covered areas.  The Lake Havasu Unified School District has six elementary schools, one middle school, and just one high school.

With transportation, equipment, and coaches stipends, Lake Havasu's athletic programs are quite costly.  So much so, that the school instituted a "pay for play" policy where students (and their families) have to shell out $400 to $800 to participate in sports activities.

Another challenge that rears its head early in the football season are the heat restrictions.  With an elevation of just 735 feet, temperatures can get a little hotter than those in the Phoenix area.  The all-time record in the state was set in June of 1994 (128 degrees) and the average high for August is 108.  Coaches must monitor the heat index as practices are not permitted to be held outdoors if that number reaches 105.  This falls under the coaches because the team does not have an official athletic trainer.  A local doctor's office provides athletic training at home games.  In the 2012 season, it was so hot that the only time window open for practices was from 3:45 to 5:15 a.m.

"We usually run practices until late September from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m.," Thompson said.

Unlike teams in the Valley that have freshman and JV schedules that mirror the varsity, Lake Havasu plays schools closer to home at the lower levels.  Because many of these 3A schools don't have freshmen teams, the Knights field two JV teams that only leave Mohave County to play Parker.

One place the Knights do have support is with coaching and their booster program.

"Our booster club did helmet reconditioning and purchased equipment for athletics," Thompson said.  "The most important thing is support of the assistant coaches."

In addition to stipends that are paid to eight assistants and the head coach, there are seven other coaches on the staff that are volunteers.  They include four local police offers and a judge.

With only one public high school in the city, you don't see the transfers that are common in the Valley.  There are two small charter schools (Telesis Prep and Desert Tech) that compete in 8-man football in the 1A Conference.  However, Thompson said due to fluctuation in the job market, you see kids moving in and out from Las Vegas and Southern California.

The inconsistent numbers provided Lake Havasu with its best team in 2015.  That Knights team had 160 total players in the program (70 varsity) and finished 11-2 and made it to the Division IV semifinals.  This year's LHHS football program had 90 among all three teams with 43 on the varsity roster.

Thompson said the city is increasingly turning into a retirement community, but one that supports the local team wearing the Purple & Gold.

"The community is super supportive on Friday nights," Thompson said.  "The stands are usually full for every game."

A good thing that has happened to the school is the passing of a bond project ($49 million for the district) in 2016.  Now that the money from that is in the bank, the LHUSD is proceeding with its capital improvement projects.  That includes rehabilitation of Lee Barnes Stadium.  Possibilities might include the installation of turf.  Currently, the track team goes to another off-campus location that has an all-weather track.  The lighting will also need to be upgraded.  There are four light poles in between the dirt track and the field that are within 10 feet of what is in bounds.  Thompson said that fortunately, no one has run into these poles on game nights.

The bond will indeed help the facilities, but it can't help the inevitable travel.  Thompson said for a typical road game in the Phoenix area (and there were three in the last five weeks of the season), the team leaves the school around noon.  They have lunch catered in to take on the bus.  Traveling on a regular yellow school bus, they are required to stop about halfway through (near Quartzsite) to inspect the bus.  The team arrives to the field at around 4:30 p.m.  Coaches serve as trainers on road games.  Following the game, dinner will either be catered or they'll have pizza delivered.  After another stop to inspect the bus, the players normally arrive back at LHHS between 1:30 and 2:30, depending on the length of the game and the distance covered.

With control of its five freedom, or non-region games, Lake Havasu has helped reduce the risk of heat advisories with one game in Flagstaff as part of the Labor Day weekend kickoff festivities inside the NAU Skydome.  For the 2018-19 block, the Knights have worked it out to face Cibola in that game.  For the past five seasons, LHHS took on River Valley HS, which is located in Mohave Valley.  2017 was the first year that the Knights won that matchup (44-0).  Thompson said it is up to RVHS to see if that game will continue.  River Valley is a smaller school that competes at the 3A level.  Lake Havasu will play Lee Williams, located in Kingman, for the first time next season.  The Volunteers are in the 4A Conference.

And then there's the big rivalry with Mohave, which is 60 miles north in Bullhead City.  The teams have met every year that the schools have been open and compete for a trophy called the Golden Shovel.  As you would expect, it looks like a shovel with a gold spade.  The game results are on the trophy and the significance is that a golden shovel was the imaginary reward for desert prospectors that struck gold.  Next season will be the 50th meeting and LHHS holds a 35-14 advantage in the series with five consecutive victories.  Many alumni make plans to attend the game against the Thunderbirds.

"It's one of our bigger pep assemblies," Thompson said.  "For incoming freshmen, everyone gets hyped up.  There's been a lot of school pride."

As for the 2017 season, Lake Havasu finished 4-6, but did find success with its passing game, which averaged 206 yards per game.  This was a change from much of the Knights' history, which has been known for producing strong running backs like Mitchell Wegner, Sean Michaels, and Austin Stefick.

"We've rewritten every passing record in Havasu history," Thompson said.

Junior quarterback Cole Wade threw for 2,016 yards with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions.  In the win over River Valley, he was 6-of-8 with three TDs and 206 yards.  In the five Desert West Region games, Wade had eight touchdown passes with at least one in each.  His primary target was senior Steven Kornowski.  Kornowski had a breakout season with 1,008 yards and six TD catches.  The Knights had a new offensive coordinator this year with Tanner Kelly.

In the new realignment, Lake Havasu will drop from 5A to 4A as its enrollment (the only factor considered by the AIA) has went down from 1,864 in October of 2015 to 1,778 in October of '17.  The Knights were placed in the 4A West Valley, which looks to be particularly tough with Deer Valley and Desert Edge (who also move down) along with Cactus and Peoria (which will give Havasu six freedom games).  Lake Havasu appealed to try and get into the 4A Southwest, which would have consisted of Buckeye, Youngker, Estrella Foothills, Yuma, Gila Ridge, and Canyon View (a new high school in Waddell that is part of the Agua Fria District).

In addition to facing what would have been easier teams, moving to the Southwest would have cut down on travel.  Lake Havasu was in a region with the Yuma schools from 2009-2014 and the distance there is about 150 miles.  A trip to Buckeye HS would have been approximately 175 miles while Deer Valley is 210.  This year, Lake Havasu traveled 1,748 miles (round-trip) for its five road games.  By comparison, Agua Fria, which competed in the same Desert West Region, traveled 160 miles for its five road games in 2017 (the Owls did go to LHHS in 2016).

Looking ahead into the new year, Thompson is excited about having his quarterback return.  While the Knights lose Kornowski, they do bring back two other top receivers.  Jacob Schafer was second in yardage with 479 along with four touchdowns.  Johnny Perez, another junior, had three touchdowns against Mohave, but was lost for the season in the fifth game (shoulder injury).

"Those guys have gotten a lot of good looks underneath," Thompson said.

Perez will also help out in the kick return game and as a kicker.  He averaged 35 yards in his five kick returns.  Perez converted a 30-yard field goal against Apollo and was a perfect 6-of-6 in extra point tries.  Thompson said the team has normally had to rely on a foreign exchange student with a soccer background to do the kicking.

Of concern when spring ball and training camp begin is replacing three offensive linemen, who were each three-year starters.  Also, the team will need a new running back as Michael Lopuszynski (nine touchdowns) is a senior.

As Thompson nears two decades at Lake Havasu High, he enjoys the connections that are made with the kids.  He has also done some coaching at the middle school and seen the future football players in different settings.

"I'm lucky enough I get to see them outside of just the football field," Thompson said.  "I'm sure a lot of smaller communities are that way."


PHOTO CAPTION:  Lake Havasu players gather together on the field at Mohave HS in Bullhead City after winning the annual Golden Shovel Game, 35-19 back in September.  It was the fifth consecutive win in the series for the Knights.  The two schools in Mohave County are separated by 60 miles.  In 2018, both schools will be in the 4A Conference, but in different regions.  So, once again the game will likely be contested in the first-half of the season.  (Photo Courtesy of Karl Thompson)

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GEICO Bowl: Chandler 55 Northwestern (FL) 20

Wolves build big lead, coast to win behind QB Conover

WEEKLY BLOG:  12/23/17

Twas two nights before Christmas in the West Valley at GCU
The Chandler Wolves were taking on Miami's Northwestern, who were state champions too.
The event was billed as the GEICO Bowl and shown on TV,
And those that tuned in to ESPNU were likely impressed with what they did see.
The Wolves were piling up points a plenty,
And took care of the Bulls by a count of fifty-five to twenty.
The hometown fans gathered at a place where they play soccer,
To see a result that to them, was certainly not a shocker.
For Chandler's win streak after the title game victory on Dec. 2 had climbed to 10,
And the crowd was ready to see their boys do it again.
The offense started where it had left off against Perry,
Led by Jacob Conover and Gunner Romney, it's downright scary.
The junior quarterback started it through the air and using very little clock,
With touchdown passes to Jarick Caldwell and Brayden Liebrock.
The first quarter lead stood at thirteen to seven,
Before a second quarter that must have been like manna from heaven.
Twenty-one points, including a Conover pass and a run,
And with the smiles on their faces, you could tell the Wolves were having fun.
More rapid than the Bulls, on a reverse Romney came,
Followed by a flea-flicker from Conover to Caldwell showing that Chandler has game.
"We've got to keep the game fun," their head coach Shaun Aguano said with a gaze.
"Our staff did an incredible job with those trick plays."
"He's been a heck of a quarterback the last two years," Aguano said of his signal caller growing in fame,
"Great moxie and great IQ for the game."
As halftime arrived when the clock ticked down to zeroes,
It was a 34-7 lead for the local heroes.
So on to the second half we went, and Northwestern put up a fight,
Bulls quarterback Chatarius "Tutu" Atwell showed off his might.
And in a twinkling, the dual-threat quarterback that will soon be headed to the Louisville Cards,
Showed off his speed with touchdown runs of 71 and 76 yards.
As I drew in my head any thoughts of a comeback,
Back came the Wolves on the attack.
It wasn't all about the offense on this night,
For Chandler would force four turnovers that were out of sight.
A fumble recovery and an interception for UNLV-signee Bryce Jackson,
Along with a pick from Avery Carrington and a fumble scooped up by Gunner Maldonado provided plenty of action.
The tall (6-3) wide receiver Romney reached the end zone once, twice, and then three,
He said of his QB, "Every single time I'm even in the area, he finds me,".
Northwestern had already done what it set out to accomplish in beating its Sunshine State peers,
Head coach Max Edwards said, "The school goal is winning the championships, which we hadn't done in 10 years."
With many players that had never left the comfy confines of South Florida, which can often be wet,
Edwards got an opportunity to put his kids on a flight which they'll never forget.
Chandler had to play this one without Drake Anderson (broken hand), its 2,000-yard rusher,
But, junior DeCarlos Brooks filled in just fine and showed the drive of a musher.
He ran for 183 yards and a score in this game that was a rout,
Brooks said, "When he got down, I knew I had to step up. I had to focus in for the next two weeks and ball out."
For the second year in a row, Conover was the MVP, and only a junior, he's not done.
After all, he threw for five touchdowns (ran one), and passed for 341.
In describing his squad and this season that was a dream,
Conover said, "I think what Chandler does differently, is we don't play as an offense and a defense, we play as a team."
Aguano called this season his most enjoyable, and he's been doing it for more than 20 years,
It was a 13-2 year that filled many with cheers.
In each game of this season-ending 11-game win streak, Chandler scored at least 48,
While doing it in a locker room that was never filled with hate.
With the interviews ended, I had but one thing to tell,
"Mele Kalikimaka to you and your Ohana, Coach Aguano!", and to you my dear readers as well.

 

Wolves 55, Bulls 20
  1 2 3 4 F
Northwestern  7  0 13 0 20
Chandler 13 21 14 7 55

First Quarter:
Chan - Jarick Caldwell 6 yard pass from Jacob Conover (pass failed), 5:35
Chan - Brayden Liebrock 7 yard pass from Conover (Cash Peterman kick), 2:53
Nwest - Tutu Atwell 45 yard run (Kendry Rosales kick), 0:57
Second Quarter:
Chan -Conover 13 yard run (Peterman kick), 9:51
Chan - Gunner Romney 13 yard run (Peterman kick), 7:54
Chan- Caldwell 35 yard pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 2:40
Third Quarter:
Nwest - Atwell 71 yard run (Rosales kick), 7:35
Chan - DeCarlos Brooks 4 yard run (Peterman kick), 6:54
Nwest- Atwell 76 yard run (kick blocked), 6:26
Chan - Romney 12 yard pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 2:42
Fourth Quarter:
Chan - Romney 42 yard pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 11:49

 
  Nwest Chan
First Downs 16 29
Total Net Yards 457 568
Rushes-yards 30-353 31-227
Passing yards 104 341
Punt Returns 2-3 2-6
Kickoff Returns 6-106 4-55
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 2-53
Comp-Att-Int 9-29-2 22-38-0
Punts 3-30.7 3-35.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-66 9-142
Time of Possession 23:02 24:58


PHOTO CAPTION:  (TOP) Chandler quarterback Jacob Conover gets a pass off in the second game of the GEICO Bowl doubleheader at Grand Canyon University.  The Wolves defeated Northwestern HS out of Miami, 55-20.  It followed the first game which saw St. Frances (MD) defeat Bingham (UT), 41-3.  Conover passed for 341 yards and had 5 touchdown passes as the Wolves won their 11th straight in the battle between state champions.  (ABOVE) Defensive tackle Chris Manoa leads the Wolves in a post-game Haka dance.  It is a traditional war dance in Maori culture that is also used to acknowledge great achievements.

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2017 All-Gridiron Arizona Team

Pioneer TE Hatten has a hold on a spot with the state's top players

WEEKLY BLOG:  12/12/17

There are over 4,000 players in the 6A and 5A conferences each year, but only 26 get the nod to make the All-Gridiron Arizona team. 

One last opportunity for me to recognize some of the most talented players in the state's two highest classifications.  There's no complex formula or algorithms at play here, just one observer's opinion.

The qualifications are short.  First, you must be in 6A or 5A.  After all, the 83 teams that comprise these two conferences are what we cover around here on a weekly basis, all year long.  Second, I need to have seen you play in person.  This season, my car made it around the Valley from Buckeye out in the west, up to Surprise, out to Scottsdale, and hitting East Valley checkpoints in Ahwatukee, Mesa, Gilbert, and Chandler.

The team just goes one-deep.  Eleven on offense, eleven on defense, a punter, a kicker, a return specialist, and what we simply call an athlete.  Stats were poured over, film was watched, and games were reviewed.

This season's champions are well represented with multiple selections.

Drake Anderson is one of the running backs on this roster.  The senior at Chandler High had a comeback season after missing the past two years with surgery on both hips.  Some wondered who the main back would be with last year's Player of the Year, T.J. Green, having gone north to the University of Utah.  Anderson had a breakout game in Week 2 against Pinnacle with four receiving touchdowns.  Most of his damage, however, came on the ground as he tallied three 200-yard games and came close to that in the 6A title game against Perry with 198 on 37 carries.  Teams couldn't load the box against the Wolves, because the passing game featured senior Gunner Romney.  Despite missing a few games, Romney had 1,419 receiving yards and scored 16 touchdowns.  In the semifinals against Red Mountain, he was practically unguardable with eight catches for 223 yards and five TDs.  While Chandler put up big offensive numbers, the defense merits some consideration also and Robert McPhee takes a spot on this defensive line.  The senior made 76 tackles with 17.5 for a loss.  Thirteen of those were quarterback takedowns.  McPhee also had an interception in the Week 10 win over Hamilton.

Centennial entered the season looking for redemption after falling in the 2016 5A title game to Williams Field.  Behind the defense and a strong rushing attack led by Zidane Thomas, the Coyotes reclaimed the championship.  In that final victory over Notre Dame, Thomas rushed for 273 yards in just 16 carries.  Like Anderson, that December Saturday in Tucson pushed Thomas over the 2,000-yard mark for the year.  He had his biggest games against Centennial's biggest opponents.  Thomas had 334 in a three-point win over Pinnacle in September, broke a 56-yard run late to put St. Thomas Aquinas away, and tallied 239 and 278 in two meetings against Liberty.  Defensively, the Coyotes held opponents to just 10.4 points per game.  Senior Jacob Franklin brought pressure with 10 sacks and Dominique Hampton made things difficult for opposing receivers.  The Washington-commit picked off seven passes this season.

Perry and Notre Dame made runs all the way to the championship game and had returning players lead them.  Brock Purdy set 6A records for yardage (4,405) and touchdown passes (57) while taking the Pumas to their first state title appearance.  Last Saturday, Purdy was named the Ed Doherty Award winner and on Monday, he was the recipient of the Gatorade Player of the Year for Arizona.  He is also my choice for the Player of the Year on this team.  Jake Smith did something for Notre Dame that has been done just two other times in the past dozen years.  He rushed for 1,000 yards and also had 1,000 more receiving.  With a pair of 2,000-yard rushers it was hard to find a spot for him at running back, but that's why we have an "athlete" position.  Smith is that utility player after a year with a 9.6-yard rushing average (118 carries) and a 32.0-yards per catch average (33 receptions).  Smith scored 28 touchdowns this season adding one on a kickoff return against Shadow Ridge, and one on a punt return against Arcadia.  He is the most recruited junior in the state with 18 offers.

Finally, the Coach of the Year is Highland's Brock Farrel.  He left Shadow Mountain to work closer to home and took over a Hawks team that was 3-7 last season.  Despite losing its best player off of that 2016 roster to Arizona State, Highland flipped the script and went 7-3 in the regular season against the same schedule.  The Hawks then defeated Desert Mountain in the first round of the 6A playoffs (their first postseason win since 2008) and finished 8-4.  Farrel came in with a vision to not only improve the players on the field, but in the classroom, and in their overall lives.  The team took part in Read Across America in March and also held a Lift-A-Thon.  Punter/kicker Austin McNamara painted the press box for his Eagle Project.  The Highland boosters hung pictures of the senior players on poles in the parking lot.  Many players turned out to support the volleyball team and some even helped play with Farrel's kids at a basketball game.  That type of family atmosphere starts at the top with the head coach.

2017 All-Gridiron Arizona Team

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

QB Brock Purdy, Perry, sr.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Brock Farrel, Highland

OFFENSE

QB Brock Purdy, Perry, sr.

RB Zidane Thomas, Centennial, sr.

RB Drake Anderson, Chandler, sr.

WR Gunner Romney, Chandler, sr.

WR Colby Dickie, Perry, jr.

TE Hayden Hatten, Pinnacle, jr.

OL Joey Ramos, Deer Valley, sr.

OL Hunter Mayginnes, Hamilton, sr.

C Max Wilhite, Desert Edge, sr.

OL Isaiah Mursalat, Horizon, sr.

OL Sean Anderson, Verrado, sr.

DEFENSE

DL Desha Bennett, Desert Ridge, sr.

DL Tylen Coleman, Maricopa, jr.

DL Noah Evans, Highland, sr.

DL Robert McPhee, Chandler, sr.

LB Larry Davis, Desert Vista, sr.

LB Vincent Elrod, Notre Dame, sr.

LB Jacob Franklin, Centennial, sr.

DB Dominique Hampton, Centennial, sr.

DB Kenny Churchwell, Mountain Pointe, sr.

DB Donjae Logan, Desert Ridge, sr.

DB Gerald Wilbon, Red Mountain, sr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Cole Johnson, Horizon, jr.

P Kyle Ostendorp, Desert Vista, jr.

RETURNER Jesus Valenzuela, Marana, sr.

UTILITY GUY

RB/WR Jake Smith, Notre Dame, jr.


PHOTO CAPTION:  Pinnacle tight end Hayden Hatten clearly didn't let this ball touch the ground from a September home game in north Phoenix.  Hatten led Pinnacle's aerial attack with 68 catches from Spencer Rattler for 1,029 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Both he and his twin brother, Hogan, were Ed Doherty Award finalists this season.  Of Rattler's 45 touchdown passes this season, 32 went to players that will return in 2018 - including Hatten.

 

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Ed Doherty Award

Purdy is named Arizona's high school Player of the Year

WEEKLY BLOG:  12/9/17

At an award ceremony on Saturday afternoon put on by the Grand Canyon State Gridiron Club, Perry quarterback Brock Purdy was announced as the recipient of the Ed Doherty Award.

Purdy, a three-year varsity starter for the Pumas, accepted the award at the end of the festivities at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, becoming the 36th winner of the prestigious honor, billed as the Arizona high school football's "Heisman" trophy.

Standing at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Purdy set 6A single-season records for passing yards (4,405) and touchdown passes (57) while leading Perry to its first state championship game.  In his varsity career, he had 8,932 yards and 107 TD passes.  On top of that, he was the Pumas' top rusher this season with 1,017 yards and nine touchdowns.  He was even on the receiving end of a TD pass against O'Connor in September (Purdy had two as a junior).

In last week's state championship game, Purdy passed for 322 yards and five touchdowns.  The Pumas scored touchdowns on all four of their second-half possessions, but it wasn't enough in a 49-42 defeat to Chandler.

After the votes were tabulated from six media members (including Gridiron Arizona) and GCSGC committee members, the top five candidates were brought forward to the stage.  They were Draycen Hall (RB-Higley), Zidane Thomas (RB-Centennial), Purdy, Jamarye Joiner (QB-Cienega), and Drake Anderson (RB-Chandler).

Along with his impressive skill on the football field, Purdy has been stellar in the classroom and holds a 3.8 GPA.  Purdy has also amassed those numbers playing in one of the toughest regions in the state, and at the highest classification.  He was emotionally moved by the moment.

"It's special," Purdy said.  "It's for the whole school, my coaching staff, my brothers I've put in all this work for, and my family."

Like many high school football players, Purdy has been driven by the vision of getting to play on Sundays.  His time at Perry was the first step towards that end result.

"My goal since I was a little kid, is to make it to the NFL," Purdy said.  "The last two years, I've had to step up my game and put in all the hard work to lead my team to a state championship."

Purdy also cited his head coach Preston Jones, the parents in the Perry community, principal Dan Serrano, and athletic director Jennifer Burks.  He said this was the closest the group at the school has been all year.

Purdy has yet to decide where he will play college football next year.  While he doesn't yet have that coveted Power Five offer, he does hold them from New Mexico State, UNLV, Montana State, Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, and UC Davis.

In addition to the announcement of the winner, the entire day was about the celebration of the 46 nominees which were selected throughout the season by having one of the top weekly performances in the state.  All levels were represented from 1A quarterback Israel Loveall, who set national records, to a handful of defensive players that either pressured the quarterback, smothered ball carriers, or made crucial interceptions to change the fortunes of games.  A total of 35 different schools were recognized as the medallion winners were paraded into the banquet hall.

Prior to the start of the luncheon, a Green Room was set up where media members were able to interview the finalists.  A total of 31 of the 46 nominees were in attendance and came from all areas including Southern Arizona and the Phoenix Union High School District.

"It's a real honor and a blessing to be with the top talent in Arizona," Marana junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet said.  "Hanging out with these guys and talk about their seasons and future."

Camelback senior running back Abukar Abdi was a medallion winner following his 315-yard performance against Alhambra on Sept. 15 in which he scored four touchdowns in a 33-27 win.  His season came to an end after just seven games due to a broken femur, but he has fond memories of that Friday night under the lights.

"I remember it was a fun game and I got to compete against an old friend," Abdi said.  "They beat us the last two years and I just wanted to do something to change that."

Liberty junior safety Ryan Puskas helped his Lion team narrow the gap against Centennial.  After falling twice to the Coyotes in 2016, Liberty went toe-to-toe with the eventual 5A champs, winning the Week 10 meeting, 21-19.  Most awards that recognize the Player of the Year focus on the offensive side of the ball, but the voters noticed Puskas' achievements (16 tackles) in handing Centennial its only loss of the season.

"It was great competition," Puskas said.  "And, to be recognized on defense means a lot."

The GCSGC resurrected the award this year, which was last handed out in 2012.  Some previous winners were on hand and a few spoke, imparting wisdom to the teenagers that harbor dreams of more success.

Ryan Kealy (1995 - St. Mary's), Kyle Caldwell (2002 - Saguaro), and Todd Heap (1997 - Mountain View) all went on to play at Arizona State.  Each had meaningful messages for the attendees.  Heap gave the keynote address and reminded the players in their prime that everybody's time in football has an expiration.  It is important to find out what your purpose in life is.

The 46 finalists have a combined total of 176 offers and a GPA of 3.15.  They represented the best of the best both on the field and off, showing strong character and integrity.  It was an honor to be able to serve on this year's selection committee and I look forward to a long future with the return of this award and with it becoming relevant once again.
 

2017 Finalists (Medallion Recipients)

Abukar Abdi (RB) - Camelback
Drake Anderson (RB) - Chandler
Alex Bell (QB) - Sabino
Trenton Bourguet (QB) - Marana
Nick Brahler (RB) - Ironwood Ridge
Elijah Carey (RB/LB) - Canyon del Oro
Tommy Christakos (WR/K) - Chaparral
Kenny Churchwell (DB) - Mountain Pointe
Jacob Conover (QB) - Chandler
Solomon Enis (WR) - North Canyon
Cole Fisher (RB) - Notre Dame
Draycen Hall (RB) - Higley
Hayden Hatten (TE) - Pinnacle
Hogan Hatten (LB) - Pinnacle
Kris Jackson (RB) - Mesa
D'Shayne James (WR) - Perry
Ja'Tai Jenkins (RB) - Verrado
Hendrix Johnson (WR) - Boulder Creek
Jamarye Joiner (QB) - Cienega
Jawhar Jordan (RB) - Hamilton
Lance Lawson (ATH) - Red Mountain
Donjae Logan (DB) - Desert Ridge
Israel Loveall (QB) - Bagdad
Max Massingale (QB) - Saguaro
Jack Miller (QB) - Chaparral
Damaria Norris (RB) - Cactus
Ricky Pearsall (WR) - Corona del Sol
Rocky Perez (RB) - Desert Edge
Jack Plummer (QB) - Gilbert
Jordan Porter (QB) - Cholla
Brock Purdy (QB) - Perry
Ryan Puskas (S) - Liberty
Spencer Rattler (QB) - Pinnacle
Bijan Robinson (RB) - Salpointe
Gunner Romney (WR) - Chandler
Angel Ruiz (WR) - Sunrise Mountain
Chris Russell (QB) - Cesar Chavez
Tyler Shough (QB) - Hamilton
Kedon Slovis (QB) - Desert Mountain
Jake Smith (RB) - Notre Dame
Zidane Thomas (RB) - Centennial
Christian Velasquez (RB) - San Manuel
Joshua Walker (WR) - Desert Mountain
Marques White (DB) - Brophy
Gerald Wilbon (DB) - Red Mountain
Aaron Wood (RB) - Skyline


PHOTO CAPTION:  Brock Purdy of Perry represents his school with a navy and cardinal tie while holding the Ed Doherty Award. (Top)  The senior QB was bestowed the honor after four rounds of voting with the selection panel.  A total of 31 of the 46 medallion winners were in attendance in Scottsdale for a luncheon to celebrate their accomplishments (Above).  Photo Credits: Mike Harvey/Peak Image Photo

 

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Championship Edition: 8 Shining Stars

Conover posts season-high 446 yards as Wolves defend in 6A

STAT BLOG:  12/4/17

Each week we've looked at some top 6A and 5A performers from the previous Friday night action.  In this final edition of the season, we open it up and honor the champions from each of the six conferences. 

QUARTERBACK - Jacob Conover (Chandler)
The Wolves' offense was unstoppable in the second half of the 6A title game.  Chandler scored touchdowns on each of its last six possessions in a 49-42 win over Perry Saturday night in Tucson.  It was the second win this year for the Wolves against PHS.  Conover, a 6-1, 195-pound junior, passed for a season-high 446 yards and had four touchdown passes.  Despite missing the entire month of September due to an injury (five games), Conover has 27 touchdown passes with just two interceptions.  The junior has completed 68 percent of his attempts and averages 303 passing yards per game.  We keep this in the present tense because the Wolves might have another game to play on Dec. 23 in the GEICO Bowl, which will be held at Grand Canyon University.  An announcement of this year's participants should be coming in the next week or so.
Next Season:  Chandler (12-2 in 2017) will play in the 6A Premier Region once again with the same schools as this year (Basha, Brophy, Hamilton, and Perry).

RUNNING BACK - Zidane Thomas (Centennial)
The Coyotes were in the finals for the fourth straight year and the hot start by Thomas made sure Centennial took the gold ball home for the third time in that span.  In the game against previously-unbeaten Notre Dame, the 5-10, 205-pound senior had 16 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-21 victory.  He reeled off runs of 67, 61, and 48 yards in the late afternoon contest in Tucson last Saturday, with the first two resulting in the scores.  Thomas, who has committed to Boise State, had 26 rushing touchdowns this season, and 44 in his two-year varsity career.  He scored a TD in all 13 of the Coyotes' games this season.
Next Season:  Centennial (12-1 in 2017) will play in the 5A Northwest Region once again, but with five different schools (Apollo, Ironwood, Kellis, Sunnyslope, and Sunrise Mountain).

WIDE RECEIVER - Khyheem Waleed (Casteel)
Two of quarterback Gunner Cruz's three touchdown passes ended up in the hands of its 6-3, 180-pound receiver
.  Waleed was a playmaker for the Colts in a 35-28 victory over Pusch Ridge in the 3A title game on Nov. 25 in Gilbert.  The junior had just three catches, but they totaled 100 yards.  For the season, he had eight touchdowns with all of them coming in Casteel's final five games.  Waleed also returned three kickoffs for TDs this year.  The Colts were the only team in the state to finish undefeated.
Next Season:  Casteel (14-0 in 2017) will move up to 5A and play in the San Tan Region with Campo Verde, Gilbert, Higley, Maricopa, and Williams Field.

DEFENSIVE LINE - Zack Perkins (Williams)
Perkins (6-3, 175) plays on the Vikings' line at defensive end.  The senior had 13 tackles in a 57-14 victory against Superior in the 1A title game on Nov. 10 in Maricopa.  Williams won its first state title since 1993.  Perkins also plays offense and caught a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion.  In his four-year varsity career, he had 206 tackles and 16 sacks.
Next Season:  Williams (9-2 in 2017) will play in 1A once again.  Regions have yet to be determined.

LINEBACKER - Connor Soelle (Saguaro)
The Saguaro defense kept Salpointe out of the end zone the entire afternoon in a 28-7 victory in the 4A state title game in Tucson on Saturday afternoon.  Soelle, a 6-1, 190-pound junior, had 11 tackles for the Sabercats with two of those resulting in losses.  For the season, he had 132 tackles, five interceptions, and four sacks.
Next Season:  Saguaro (12-2 in 2017) will play in the 4A Desert Sky Region with Arcadia, Marcos de Niza, Mesquite, Poston Butte, and Seton Catholic.

DEFENSIVE BACK - Thomas Brandon (Casteel)
Brandon, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior cornerback, had eight tackles and forced a fumble for the Colts.  Casteel won a state title in just its second year as a varsity program with a roster that has no seniors.  Pusch Ridge came in with a strong running game, but the Colts limited it to 115 yards (2.9 yards per carry). 

SPECIAL TEAMS - Shane Cooke (Thatcher)
The senior, who also plays running back, defensive end, and baseball, made a big play on special teams in the Eagles' game with Santa Cruz in the 2A championship on Nov. 25 in Gilbert.  Thatcher trailed 21-8 midway through the fourth quarter.  The comeback was ignited when the 6-3, 185-pounder blocked a punt.  The Eagles scored in the closing seconds to force overtime and won 28-27 when an extra-point try by the Dust Devils was no good.  It was the second consecutive state title for Thatcher.
Next Season:  Thatcher (13-1 in 2017) will play in the 2A Black Region with Morenci, Pima, Round Valley, and St. Johns.  All were members of the 2A East (with Thatcher) this year.

TEAM - Saguaro
It was called the Drive for Five and the Sabercats delivered.  Several former players made the trip to U of A to see the start of Saturday's tripleheader and just as they have in each of the last four years, Saguaro toted a gold ball to the bus for the trip home to Scottsdale.  Three of the five state titles were claimed in Tucson.  This one came against the best team from Southern Arizona, Salpointe.  Several "experts" thought the offensive line for the Lancers would be the difference, particularly after Saguaro had to go overtime to defeat Higley in the semifinals.  But it wasn't to be for Salpointe Catholic.  It was a defensive effort that limited big plays and shut down the offense when they got close.  Quarterback Max Massingale finished his career with two touchdown passes and two more TDs on the ground.  Logan Pettijohn was the recipient of both scoring strikes.  Josiah Bradley had four interceptions this season with all of them coming in Saguaro's last three games (one in the title game).  The Sabercats extended a couple of streaks.  Saguaro has won 20 consecutive playoff games and 35 in a row against teams from Arizona.


PHOTO CAPTION:  Chandler quarterback Jacob Conover looks for an open receiver in last Saturday's 6A State Championship game.  Conover has eight college offers, including Alabama, Arizona, and Northwestern.  The junior led the Wolves to a second straight state championship with a 49-42 victory over Perry.  The game was played on the University of Arizona campus due to renovations at Sun Devil Stadium and the unavailability of University of Phoenix Stadium, which is in the midst of a stretch of three straight home games for the Cardinals.

 

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5A Championship: Centennial 42 Notre Dame 21

Z2K: Thomas comes up huge in another big game for Coyotes

CHAMPIONSHIP BLOG:  12/2/17

One year ago, I talked to Centennial head coach Richard Taylor in an empty locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium.  The players had long filed out after falling one step short against Williams Field in the 5A title game.

It was a young Coyote team and just two days later, many of them showed up at the weight room despite a planned three-week break.  Taylor opened it up and 365 days of dedication paid off.

"They were so heartbroken last year," Centennial head coach Richard Taylor said.  "They have not stopped since that loss."

The Coyotes opened the year top-ranked, made national waves with a midseason win over St. Thomas Aquinas, and rebounded from their only loss (to Liberty in Week 10), with a four-game playoff run.  It was capped off with a 42-21 victory over Notre Dame Prep on the University of Arizona's campus in Tucson.  Senior running back Zidane Thomas rushed for 273 yards on just 16 carries propelling him over the 2,000-yard mark for the second straight season.

There's nothing surprising about Centennial (12-1) winning a state championship.  The Coyotes have won three in the past four years and six in the past 13 years (with 10 appearances in the title game).  But, with an undefeated opponent on the other sideline, there were plenty of media that thought the Saints would send Centennial back to Peoria without the gold ball again.

Last year, Williams Field scored two second-quarter touchdowns to turn a tight game into a 14-3 lead (and a 14-6 win).

After a scoreless first quarter, things were different in 2017.  From the second quarter on, the Coyotes appeared to be stuck in fast-forward mode.  Commonly thought of by those outside of the program as a one-dimensional team, Centennial showed its senior quarterback leader has some game as well.

The flurry began with the Coyotes' star running back, who lowered his shoulder, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and was gone - 67 yards down the left sideline to open the scoring.  Prior to Thomas' run (his 25th TD of the year), he had nine yards in his first four carries.

"A lot of games start like that where you have to fight for everything," Thomas, who is a Boise State commit, said.  "Eventually, the defense breaks a little and we got things going."

Senior quarterback Ruben Beltran, a two-year starter, got on a roll with seven straight completions in the second quarter.  One of those went to junior AJ Jackson for 49 yards.  Jackson is a jack-of-all trades player who appears on the stat sheet in so many areas.  He is a receiver, a punter, a punt returner, and a free safety.  Later in the drive, senior Alex Escobar looked like he was going to be taken down for a loss, but avoided two Saint defenders and scampered 15 yards for a touchdown.

With Thomas a threat to score anytime he touches the ball, defenders have to key on him.  That lends itself to play action, and that's what Beltran did on the first play of the next offensive series.  He found Dominique Hampton wide open.  The national recruit (at cornerback) caught it in stride and took it in for a 59-yard score to make it 21-0.

Hampton's future position coach at Washington, Jimmy Lake, was in attendance and witnessed his recent commit make plays on both sides of the ball.  The 6-foot-3 Hampton had caught just six passes all season (for 57 yards), and may have caught Notre Dame by surprise.

"It was more of a secret weapon type thing," Hampton said of his role in the formation.  "That felt good.  It was just play action and throw it deep."

Meanwhile, the Centennial defense was playing like the team that dominated the nationally-ranked Florida power in September.  Notre Dame's offense entered the game averaging 258 rushing yards and 427 yards per game.  After the game's first 24 minutes, the Saints had 57 rushing and just one passing (on 2-of-9).  The primary weapons all season for NDP had been neutralized.  Starring on the defense were Anthony Campbell, Jaydin Young, Jordan Ware, and Devin Butler.  That grouping combined to make all 15 tackles for the Coyotes.

In the first half, Notre Dame ran a total of 27 plays and punted six times in as many possessions.

The third quarter began the same way for Centennial.  On the second play, Thomas got loose again for 61 yards.  He was following up on a 278-yard performance two weeks ago in the semifinals against Liberty.

"I can say it now, because he's done," Taylor said.  "Zidane has always played big in big games."

Notre Dame (13-1) scored early in the third quarter as talented junior Jake Smith went deep with the Coyotes in man coverage.  Kylan Weisser launched a perfect pass which Smith caught in stride and turned on the afterburners for an 81-yard touchdown.

With the receiving yards, Smith became just the third player from the state to post a 1,000-yard rushing and 1,000-yard receiving season.  He joins Christian Kirk (Saguaro) and Davonte' Neal (Chaparral).  Ironically, all three players played their high school ball in Scottsdale.

Any momentum the Saints had was quickly extinguished as Hampton caught an easy interception that hung up in the air on a 3rd-and-30 play.  Centennial converted the game's only turnover into more points as Beltran scored on a 30-yard keeper to go up 35-6.

"It was an amazing feeling as a senior to help solidify what we could do at Centennial," Hampton said.  We didn't want that same feeling that the seniors had last year.  We wanted to end it at a good note."

With the lopsided score, Taylor was also able to get a couple plays in for sophomore Jonathan Morris, the quarterback of the future.  Morris threw a touchdown pass to another sophomore (Dyelan Miller) to cap the team's point total.

"I'm so proud of the season because they got a ring," Taylor said of the senior class.  "It was a total team, school, and community victory."

To Notre Dame's credit, the Saints never quit competing.  The final score grew closer, or more respectable, after a fourth-down scramble for a touchdown by Weisser.  The score was set up with a very short field as senior Ricky Manning brought the kickoff back to the CeHS 20-yard line.  Later, in the final minute, Cole Fisher scored the 50th touchdown in his fine three-year varsity career.  It came on a pass from Weisser, who extended the drive with a fake punt (yes, he does double duty).

Thomas averaged a staggering 17.1 yards per carry while posting the 273-yard total.  It was the seventh time the Zidane Train steamed past 200 yards in a game.

"Hats off to Centennial," Notre Dame head coach George Prelock said.  "They executed and we tried to stop Zidane.  We couldn't execute."

Notre Dame saw an 18-game winning streak (the longest active one in the state) come to an end.  It was the end of a run for 35 seniors, many of whom played for Prelock on the NDP Frosh team.  It was also a group that saw a lot of turmoil in 2016.  Notre Dame was banned from the playoffs one season ago, despite winning the Northeast Valley Region and finishing 8-2.  It was due to a recruiting violation and the holding of padded practices in June.  The school made the right choice by selecting Prelock for the vacancy when the previous coach was terminated in Week 10 of last year.  That was solidified with the togetherness of the team as well as the win-loss ledger.

"I'm so proud of our team," Prelock said.  "This team is absolutely resilient and they've been through a lot the last four years.  I'm more than blessed and honored to coach them this season."
 

Coyotes 42, Saints 21
  1 2 3 4 F
Notre Dame 0  0  6 15 21
Centennial 0 21 14  7 42

First Quarter:
No Scoring
Second Quarter:
Cent - Zidane Thomas 66 yard run (Xavier Rojas kick), 8:59
Cent - Alex Escobar 15 yard run (Rojas kick), 6:16
Cent - Dominique Hampton 59 yard pass from Ruben Beltran (Rojas kick), 4:13
Third Quarter:
Cent - Thomas 61 yard run (Rojas kick), 11:36
NDP - Jake Smith 81 yard pass from Kylan Weisser (kick failed), 11:19
Cent- Beltran 30 yard run (Rojas kick), 5:24
Fourth Quarter:
Cent - Dylean Miller 7 yard pass from Jonathan Morris (Rojas kick), 11:00
NDP - Weisser 8 yard run (Weisser run), 9:12
NDP - Cole Fisher 25 yard pass from Weisser (Sammy Pileggi kick), 0:45

 
  NDP Cent
First Downs 14 16
Total Net Yards 261 540
Rushes-yards 38-112 33-368
Passing yards 149 172
Punt Returns 0-0 2-24
Kickoff Returns 7-149 3-37
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 6-20-1 11-14-0
Punts 6-40.5 3-44.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 2-5 10-100
Time of Possession 26:50 21:10


PHOTO CAPTION:  Centennial senior running back Zidane Thomas is about to get a huge hole to run in around the right after fullback Anthony Campbell takes out a Notre Dame defender.  Thomas had runs of 67, 61, and 48 yards with the first two resulting in touchdowns in a 42-21 victory over the Saints.  Thomas followed up his 278-yard performance against Liberty in the semifinals with 273 yards for the Coyotes, who claimed the 5A title for the third time in four years.

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6A Championship: Chandler 49 Perry 42

Wolves take second straight title in scorefest

WEEKLY BLOG:  12/2/17

The Chandler Wolves began their 6A dynasty with a victory over CUSD-rival, and longtime powerhouse, Hamilton in 2014.  Now, Chandler has three titles in a four-year span as the Wolves took out another Chandler District team, this time the up-and-coming program at Perry.

But the new kids to the state championship scene didn't make it easy.  Not one bit.

The Wolves and Pumas put on a show with a combined nine touchdown passes and not one turnover.  When it ended, the 49-42 classic at Arizona Stadium in Tucson was the highest-scoring 6A (big-school) championship game in state history.

Junior quarterback Jacob Conover had 446 passing yards distributing the ball equally to receivers Gunner Romney, Jarick Caldwell, and Brayden Liebrock as each ended up with 100 yards and a touchdown as the Wolves successfully defended their title.

The run game was powered by Drake Anderson, who went over the 2,000-yard mark for the season with 198 yards on a workhorse-like 37 carries and three touchdowns.

On the Perry side, senior Brock Purdy was Mr. Everything with 322 passing yards and five touchdowns.  On the ground, he supplied 131 of the Pumas' 142 rushing yards, and the team's sixth touchdown.

So, for those who live by the mantra "Defense Wins Championships", this was the exception.

In the first meeting between the teams on Oct. 6, it was no contest as the Wolves breezed out to a 48-6 lead en route to a 55-27 pasting of the Pumas.  Chandler head coach Shaun Aguano didn't expect the title game to be as easy.

"I just thought they played a good game," Aguano said of Perry.  "After the first game, I figured they'd find some weaknesses."

Believe it or not, this one actually started with the defenses.  Perry threw three straight incompletions, but was able to hold Chandler to a field goal attempt in its initial possession.  That try was blocked giving the Pumas a little bit of momentum.

Perry (12-2) capitalized on that and drove the ball 80 yards.  This time, it was primarily with the ground game.  Six of nine plays were of the running variety with five of them by Purdy.  After converting on a fourth-and-one from the 20, he scored on a designed run to the right.

Chandler (12-2) answered with a 56-yard pass play from Conover to Liebrock to the 6-yard line.  From there, Anderson punched it in for his 30th rushing touchdown of the season to even the score. 

The score remained that way until the last five minutes of the half.  And from that point forward, the scoring onslaught only ended when the scoreboard clock went to all zeroes.

The Pumas regained the lead with a nine-yard pass from Purdy to Connor Boyd.  Once again, it was a drive that saw their quarterback make good on a fourth-and-one.  For the season, Purdy went over the 1,000-yard mark in rushing.

The Perry defense was close to getting its third consecutive stop.  Chandler faced a third-and-20 from its own 34-yard line.  Conover found Caldwell, who had dropped an earlier pass.  This time, he made up for it with a 66-yard scoring play to even the score at 14.  It was the second straight year that the senior tight end scored in the state title game.

And the Pumas never stopped Chandler again.

"We knew it was going to come down to defense," Perry head coach Preston Jones said.  "In the second half, we just had to get a stop, and we couldn't do that."

You can argue it was a defensive play by the Wolves that gave them an advantage that they would hold onto.

Junior linebacker Zach Bowers stopped running back Kenny Fultz for a one-yard loss on third-and-long to force a punt.  The Wolves turned that into a halftime lead as Conover found Liebrock in the end zone.  The scoring play was set up by a 30-yard pass to Tre Hart, with a personal foul penalty (hit out of bounds) to bring the ball inside the 10-yard line.

"It feels incredible," Bowers, who has college offers from Nevada, South Dakota State, Oregon State, and Syracuse said.  "It shows the offense can carry us when we need them.  Hats off to Perry, they game-planned well for us."

Having the lead at the half was significant because the Wolves received the second half kick.  In the game's last 24 minutes, each team completed four drives.  All resulted with the referee raising his arms in the end zone.

The Wolves started it off with a methodical 67-yard drive gaining four first downs along the way.  Anderson went right up the gut for his second score.  The lead was at 27-14 as the extra point was blocked.

Junior D'Shayne James went airborne and pulled in a 12-yard touchdown reception to keep Perry hanging around.

There was still enough time left in the third quarter for each QB to launch a 46-yard scoring strike.  Conover threw a bomb to Romney, who scored his 15th touchdown of the year.  Less than two minutes later, Purdy was up to the task hitting Kyle Patterson on third-and-19.  The 6-foot-3 junior fell across the goal line to keep the Pumas within six at 34-28 through three.

As you might expect in a game like this, teams were converting on both third and fourth down.  For the game, Perry was 8-of-16 and Chandler 8-of-14 on third down.  On fourth down, each side was a perfect three-of-three.

The Wolves faced such a situation looking at fourth-and-two at the Perry 42 early in the fourth quarter.  Anderson took off on his third TD run, and it was scintillating.  He broke four tackles along the way and CHS converted a two-point conversion pass (Conover to Caldwell) to go back up by 14.

Just 11 seconds later, Perry was back in the end zone as Purdy connected with James on his second touchdown of the night (and 15th of the season).  Inexplicably, the Pumas decided to go for two and came up short so the margin was at eight.

It was that score that put the total over the 70 points that Tucson and Sunnyslope posted in the 1970 3A (then the biggest class) title game.  The Badgers won that one 54-16 in the first of back-to-back championships.

The last 10 minutes only served to put that record out of reach for a while.

Conover surpassed the 400-yard mark for the first time this season, and second of his career, with a 34-yard pass to Romney along the right sideline on third-and-long.

"Our team has so much depth," Conover, a two-year starter, said.  "When we play together, we're unstoppable."

Perry wasn't done yet.  The Pumas rallied once again with a touchdown pass from Purdy to Colby Dickie (on fourth down, of course).  It was Purdy's 57th scoring toss of the season (the old 5A/6A record was 46 by Chandler's Bryce Perkins).  He also set the mark for most passing yards in a season with 4,405 (old record was 3,740 by Horizon's Dalton Sneed).  PHS made up for the missed PAT from earlier with another pass from Purdy to Dickie and it was 49-42 with 2:39 to play.

In a situation like that, you need to have the ball; and that's what the Pumas attempted to do with an onside kick.  It was recovered by the boys in white, but an encroachment penalty forced a re-kick.  The second try was secured by Caldwell on the Wolves' hands team.

Chandler drove to the PHS 20-yard line and faced fourth-and-nine with 48 seconds remaining.  A field goal would have essentially given the Wolves the game as the margin would have been two scores.  But, Perry had already blocked a field goal and an extra point on this night.  With his offense at full power, Aguano wasn't taking any chances.

"If we're going to win a championship, we're going to go for it," Aguano said.  "Over the years, our kids expect to win.  When they expect it, good things happen."

So, the Wolves went for it and Conover completed a pass to Caldwell across the middle for the first down - and the second straight gold ball.

"Our O-Line was able to give me time to find the receivers," Conover said.  "Those O-Linemen have been outstanding all year long."

Anderson's quest for 2,000 would have seemed absurd to most just one year ago.  He missed all of his sophomore and junior seasons with surgery on both hips from torn labra.  Last season, he watched his teammates celebrate on the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium as he wasn't cleared to play until late December.

"That was my motivation for this year," Anderson said.  "My team was so happy last year and I couldn't understand it."

Late that night in 2016, Anderson was in the weight room.  Look no further than Anderson's Twitter bio and you'll see that he's had 2K on the mind.

"Coming back, that was my main goal," Anderson said.  "I wanted to rush for 2,000 yards."

This was a special senior class that Perry has seen coming for a while.  In 2014, the Frosh Pumas went 8-1-1 with the tie coming against Chandler.  By the time they were on varsity as juniors, PHS went 11-2.  They followed that up with a 12-2 year.  Unfortunately, the "2" in both of those years were against the Wolves.

"The effort in this game is what we've had all season," Jones said.  "They do that 24/7.  They're all heart and will never be outhustled."

Perry reached the title game for the first time in its 10-year history (all under Jones).  Puma Nation brought a large crowd of supporters to Tucson for the landmark event.  It was a team that came out of nowhere in '16.  This season, the players produced with the expectations laid upon them from the previous year's success.  It's also the development from Jones in helping the players not only be winners on the field, but winners off of it.

"They made history," Jones said.  "More important, it's the things they've done in the school.  They do it the right way."
 

Wolves 49, Pumas 42
  1 2 3 4 F
Perry 7  7 14 14 42
Chandler 7 14 13 15 49

First Quarter:
Perry - Brock Purdy 15 yard run (Gavin Sherwood kick), 6:08
Chan - Drake Anderson 6 yard run (Cash Peterman kick), 3:46
Second Quarter:
Perry - Connor Boyd 9 yard pass from Purdy (Sherwood kick), 4:44
Chan - Jarick Caldwell 66 yard pass from Jacob Conover (Peterman kick), 3:55
Chan - Brayden Liebrock 6 yard pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 2:01
Third Quarter:
Chan - Anderson 2 yard run (kick blocked), 8:21
Perry - D'Shayne James 12 yard pass from Purdy (Sherwood kick), 6:51
Chan - Gunner Romney 46 yard pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 4:36
Perry - Kyle Patterson 46 yard pass from Purdy (Sherwood kick), 2:56
Fourth Quarter:
Chan - Anderson 42 yard run (Caldwell pass from Conover), 10:12
Perry - James 65 yard pass from Purdy (run failed), 10:01
Chan - Romney 34 yard pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 4:58
Perry - Colby Dickie 19 yard pass from Purdy (Dickie pass from Purdy), 2:39

 
  Perry Chan
First Downs 27 30
Total Net Yards 464 649
Rushes-yards 28-142 47-203
Passing yards 322 446
Punt Returns 1-7 1-3
Kickoff Returns 6-40 3-90
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 19-43-0 21-29-0
Punts 5-38.0 2-46.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-39 10-104
Time of Possession 18:39 29:21


PHOTO CAPTION:  Chandler poses for a group shot on the field at the University of Arizona after winning its second straight 6A championship.  The Wolves led throughout the second half in a 49-42 victory over Perry.  Chandler posted 649 yards of total offense and extended its win streak to 10 games.

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