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Highland quarterback Blake Young fires a pass to his receiver in the flats during the first quarter of action while taking on Red Mountain, Friday November 8, 2013, at Highland High School in Gilbert. [Greg Herriman / Special to Tribune]
Maybe the tough early schedule is finally paying off.
Winning in the playoffs is often about perseverance. So, too, is simply getting to this point.
Highland quarterback Blake Young is taken down by a Chandler defender while carrying the ball, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]
Highland quarterback Blake Young scrambles with the ball while playing Chandler, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]
For the second week in a row, Highland fell to a top Division I team by a touchdown. The No. 7-seeded Hawks (based on power rankings) fell to No. 2-seeded Chandler, 21-14, in the regular season finale for both teams.
Highland quarterback Blake Young carries the ball while playing Chandler, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]
Highland's Blake Young eludes the Hamilton defensive pressure during their game against Hamilton High School in Chandler on Friday, Oct 25, 2013. [Greg Herriman / Special to Tribune]
Highland's Blake Young throws for a completion during their game against Hamilton High School in Chandler on Friday, Oct 25, 2013. [Greg Herriman / Special to Tribune]
Highland's Blake Young hands off to Ryan McCord during their game against Hamilton High School in Chandler on Friday, Oct 25, 2013. [Greg Herriman / Special to Tribune]
In a game dominated by a pair of defenses that made stop after stop after stop, the Hamilton offense did just enough at the game's end to give the Huskies' a 14-7 homecoming win over a feisty Highland squad on Friday night.
Highland coach Pete Wahlheim paced lightly in the end zone after he spoke to his players on Friday night. He was in his thoughts as he waited for the regular post-game pomp and circumstance in the form of a brief chat with visiting reporters.
The Highland football team entered the season feeling good about itself.
Bailey Anderson, Gilbert Christian: 551 yards, 10 TD...
Tyler Bloom, Higley: 315 yards, 5 TD...
Zach Werlinger, Basha (pictured): 304 yards, 2 TD, 2 rush TD...
John Clark, Mountain View: 294 yards, TD...
Nick Smith, Scottsdale Prep: 264 yards, 5 TD...
Josh Eckley, Marcos de Niza: 263 yards, 5 TD...
Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro: 261 yards, 2 TD...
Kyle Johnson, Seton Catholic: 228 yards, 3 TD...
Payton Haslam, Mesquite: 214 yards, 2 TD...
Caleb Murray-Thomas, Red Mountain: 211 yards, 2 TD...
Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Paradise Valley: 191 yards, 4 TD...
Blake Young, Highland: 185 yards, TD...
Kyle Allen, Desert Mountain: 183 yards, 3 TD
Brandon Haagsma, Valley Christian: 126 yards, 4 TD...
After Highland began the season with a 1-2 record, coach Pete Wahlheim discussed with his team the idea of winning its next four games before a brutal end to the season against the three Chandler powerhouses (Hamilton, Chandler and Basha).
Highland’s defense shined Friday night during a convincing 49-14 victory over crosstown rival Gilbert, with the host Hawks holding the visiting Tigers to just 134 yards of total offense.
Highland quarterback Blake Young reacts with joy after throwing the game tying touchdown to Jake Brown being congratulated by teammates in background during game against Campo Verde Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. [Brant Clinard/ Special to Tribune]
Whatever lucky charm Campo Verde pulled out to survive two monster mistakes in the final minutes of its game against Highland wore off at exactly the wrong time, providing the visiting Hawks one more chance to escape with a 27-24 victory on Friday night.
Teams to watch
In an era where offensive football rules, the best offensive play on Friday night came from the Highland's defense.
Tyler Bloom, Higley: 402 yards, 5 TD
Bryce Perkins, Chandler: 376 yards, 2 TD
Josh Eckley, Marcos de Niza: 359 yards, 6 TD
Kyle Allen, Desert Mountain: 356 yards, 5 TD
Emanuel Gant, Tempe (pictured): 345 yards, 5 TD
Russell Corriveau, Poston Butte: 323 yards, 2 TD
Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Paradise Valley: 308 yards, 2 TD
Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro: 303 yards, 5 TD
John Clark, Mountain View: 301 yards, 3 TD
Zach Werlinger, Basha: 271 yards, 4 TD
Sean Paul Brophy, Chaparral: 259 yards, 3 TD
Blake Young, Highland: 205 yards, 2 TD
Payton Haslam, Mesquite: 202 yards, TD
Dalton Sneed, Horizon: 189 yards, 2 TD
Michael Amado, Skyline: 170 yards, 3 TD
A defensive stalemate could be brewing here in the SE Valley. Outside of 10 minutes played against a good Mountain View offense, Highland’s defense continues to be its calling card while the offense has struggled nearly all season to score points, falling victim to turnovers and penalties on the occasions it’s able to string together a few first downs. There is talent here, as Ryan McCord is less-than-healthy but a tough runner, and Jake Brown, Dusty Cook and Chip White are big targets for Blake Young. Campo Verde (4-0) lost all of its defense from a year ago and moved up to Division II, but the Coyotes have been just as good (if not better) defensively. First team to score 14 points might be the winner here, and though the Coyotes haven’t played anything near Highland thus far (especially defensively), dual-threat QB Luke Pineda and Gabe Ogbonnaya and Jordan Fickas will be enough to overcome the loss of Erick Belcher...
Prediction: Campo Verde 17, Highland 13
Most offensive players would look at a 3rd-and-34 and shudder.