Coach: Jim Ewan
Last year’s record: 9-4, lost to Hamilton in state semifinals
Returning starters offense: 6, including Brett Hundley, widely considered the best QB in the state after he threw for 1,500 yards and 16 TDs and ran for 1,200 yards and 12 TD after being inserted into the starting lineup in the middle of Week 2 last season.
Returning starters defense: 1, including Jamel Vargas, the lone returner and starting CB last season could play safety out of necessity for the Wolves this season.
Aug. 27 at Skyline, Sept. 3 at Centennial; Sept. 10 vs. Casa Grande; Sept. 16 at Mesa; Sept. 23 vs. Brophy; Oct. 1 vs. Hamilton; Oct. 15 at Red Mountain; Oct. 22 at Desert Vista; Oct. 29 vs. Mountain View; Nov. 5 vs. Trevor Browne.
Sept. 3 at Centennial: This game was the Brett Hundley coming out party in 2009, even though the Wolves still lost big. Will the Wolves do better at stopping the Coyotes this year after allowing 62 points?
Sept. 23 vs. Brophy: Talk about one that got away. The Wolves lost their kicker and wound up missing two extra-points, then a diving catch in the end zone on fourth down by Max Eller forced overtime, and the second missed PAT opened the door for the Broncos.
Oct. 1 vs. Hamilton: Somehow, the craziness from the previous week against Brophy was toppled a week later. In an instant classic, Hamilton won on a touchdown pass with three seconds left that kept the Wolves 0-for-history against their Chandler neighbor. Given the choice of either beating Hamilton or wining a state championship may not be such an easy answer.
Expectations are pretty darn high at Chandler this year, and that’s saying something given the school’s recent success.
The Wolves are fine with it.
After all, they’ve talked about wanting to send their coach out in style. Jim Ewan is hanging it up after 40 years of coaching in Arizona at the high school and college level. But before he walks away, there’s a 10-year hiccup waiting to be stopped.
The Wolves know Hamilton holds the key, and a state championship will eventually run through the Huskies, but before then, Chandler has plenty of its own business to address.
With Brett Hundley at QB and leading receiver Michael Okonkwo (24 rec., 440 yards, 3 TD) back on offense, even a re-shaped offensive line and backfield should still lead to plenty of points.
The issue here is a defense which lost 10 starters from a year ago (including Malcolm Holland who transferred back to Hamilton where he played as a freshman and sophomore). Only defensive back Jamel Vargas didn’t graduate (or transfer), and the Wolves may split him between cornerback and safety.
They are excited about Kisma Jagne, who tranferred out of Laveen Cesar Chavez. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive is “cat quick,” according to Ewan, and drew comparisons to former standout lineman/tight end Dion Jordan.
Still, it’s hard to know if the offensive line can protect Hundley the way it did last year, if the Wolves’ running backs can take the pressure off No. 17 and whether the defense and special teams can solidify and not be a bugaboo late in the season.
Big questions for sure, but nothing the Wolves aren’t used to. And nothing they feel can stop them from clutching a championship.