VX Rewind: How to topple a giant - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

VX Rewind: How to topple a giant

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Posted: Saturday, November 19, 2011 4:13 pm | Updated: 4:49 pm, Sat Nov 19, 2011.

Is there going to be a post-Thanksgiving coma having nothing to do with turkey, in-laws or tryptophan?

For an alternative to the idiocy of standing in lines for three hours at midnight to save 40 percent on potholders next weekend, keep yourself awake and head to Flagstaff, because that might be where the best high school football championship games will unfold (especially Divisions IV and V).

Of course, as of Saturday afternoon we didn't yet know who'll be playing the smaller school title tilts, but since Hamilton (Division I) and Chaparral (Division II) have left no reason to question them as heavy favorites next Saturday night in the Valley.

Of those two, for some reason - who knows why or what cognitive clutter creeps into my skull on a regular basis - Hamilton would be the one to fall. Despite what happened with Chaparral in the second half against Peoria Centennial on Friday night, between Desert Vista (Division I) and Vail Cienega (Division II), the Thunder has the best shot.

(No, that's not to say it's going to happen. Bear with me on this one).

To beat a Hamilton or Chaparral in this day and age, there are a few requisites:

•No turnovers. None. Zero. Non-applicable. If you commit them and/or can't force them, go ahead and ignore the rest and be delighted because second place in the state is pretty darn good.

•The ever-delicate balance of speed and athleticism, combined with discipline, because those schools can use your greatest strengths against you.

•Balance on offense. It doesn't matter if you can run the high school equivalent of the Green Bay Packers' "Lombardi sweep" from the 1960s (or in Desert Vista's case, the fly sweep). If there's no 50-50 split between running and passing - and both methods better produce - forget it.

•Since playing these schools at the beginning of the year didn't work for Arizona schools (Las Vegas Bishop Gorman being the exception by beating Chaparral), an already-difficult schedule is a must for preparation purposes.

•Flawless special teams. It's why Centennial's season is over.

•A few things somewhat out of your control to go your way, whether it's trick plays, forcing a couple turnovers or being on the other side of that rarity when Hamilton or Chaparral get penalty-happy.

Desert Vista has those abilities, attributes and achievements.

Of course, the Huskies beat the Thunder, 35-10 in Week 7, and the postseason reset button didn't work for Chandler or Desert Ridge against the Huskies.

Cienega has a sensational running back in Manny Vera, a solid quarterback in Michael Archie and a couple defensive stalwarts in linebacker Daniel Gonzales and defensive lineman Kevin Thompson. Wins against Tucson Ironwood Ridge and Marcos de Niza in the playoffs have helped assimilate the Bobcats' level of competition to what Chaparral will deliver.

But Cienega has question marks regarding a couple of the aforementioned attributes, namely offensive balance and strength of schedule.

Desert Vista, however, has shown those requisites nearly every week for the entire season and postseason (except, of course, against Hamilton). Even though there is no Devon Kennard Jr., this Thunder team is better overall than the 2007 team that lost to Brophy in the 5A Division I title game, especially offensively.

This isn't some crazy "upset of the millennium" call, and, in keeping up with how the other two schools fared against Hamilton the second time, another 35-10 outcome is more likely in favor of one school than the other.

But the Thunder has the ingredients for a winning recipe. We'll see if they, too, get burned.

Outcome aside, a little more cordial between the coaches this time around would be much appreciated after the verbal sparring following the previous meeting. Hey, Thunder coach Dan Hinds and Huskies coach Steve Belles have many things in common, including an affinity for shaved heads and goatees.


Thumbs Up

Chaparral's first half: Playing in what probably was the de facto state championship game (unless the Firebirds royally stink up Sun Devil Stadium), Chaparral looked like the untouchable Firebirds of 2010 for 24 minutes against Peoria Centennial on Friday night. The Firebirds used Davonte Neal much more often in the offense - which they should next weekend as well - and the defense completely shut down Centennial's running game. When the Coyotes are going for it on fourth down in the first half, as they did twice, you know you're dominating.

Kendyl Taylor: Better than his big brother, Kerry? Could be, at least at the high school level. Hamilton's offense doesn't have a few things this year, but with Taylor, the Huskies have their only dynamic playmaker. Once he got more carries out of the backfield he's been even better. No gaudy stats given the Huskies' sharing hands and some blowouts, but his one-handed catch for a touchdown and his other touchdown on a vertical route while being double-teamed smack of being a player of the year candidate.

Thumbs Down

Chaparral's second half: Centennial deserves credit here, and if not for a significantly underthrown pass in the game's final minute, we could be thumbing down more than Chaparral's second half. The Firebirds aren't about to apologize for the win, nor should they, but if they look like the post-halftime team that was confused, frustrated and mentally elsewhere both offensively and defensively, the championship game will be a laugher for Cienega.

Big school semifinal venues: This is a tricky deal juggling between proximation to participating schools and a venue that can handle the large crowds for Division I and II. Chandler High works perfectly, but Mesquite and North Canyon were a mess. The fields were torn up and beaten down and press boxes are WAY too small to accommodate media and announcer/clock operator demands (not to mention AIA365.com broadcasts). It might be a few extra miles one way or another, but there are significantly better places to play.


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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]