The superlatives rolled off the tongue: Chandler hasn’t allowed a point yet this season. The Wolves’ defense hasn’t allowed an opponent past midfield. None of the offensive or defensive starters have played after halftime. Quarterback Darell Garretson has one incompletion in two games.
The caveat to those superlatives wasn’t said, but Chandler knows about the proverbial “but” associated with those early-season feats.
After beating up Yuma Kofa and Phoenix Maryvale, it’s time for a month-long (at least) reality check for Chandler.
Beginning Friday night with Mesquite, the Wolves’ September concludes with Basha, Mountain Pointe and Hamilton.
First things first, the Wolves will have to play a full four quarters for the first time this season. The Wolves have eight Division I-caliber players, a couple premier receivers in Lloyd Mills and Javon Williams and have been able to share the wealth of carries.
The problem for them will be competing against a Mesquite team that feels pretty good about itself after shutting down Red Mountain and Highland to start the season.
“I don’t care if you play a team of nuns, if you score 50 points, you’re good,” Mesquite coach Matt Gracey said of Chandler.
It’s strength (Chandler offense) vs. strength (Mesquite defense), but with a Wolves team that hasn’t needed starters to play a full game. Or a close game.
“We’re pretty healthy, and, I guess, well-rested,” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said. “...I want to see us be physical and handle pressure, and whether we can execute. I think we’ll be fine in all aspects. I want to see our kids stand up to Mesquite’s pressure.”
The Wolves know what’s coming. Mesquite has again showed itself to be a top defensive team in the East Valley, and while the offense has struggled at times to score, new coach Matt Gracey sees an evolution in the making.
The offensive strengths of Mesquite are its running game (Anthony Lopez has 254 yards rushing) and the offensive line. Two weeks ago, the Wildcats had one drive of 10 plays against Highland. Last week, despite going even more run-heavy when starting quarterback Steven Bevan left the game with a concussion, the Wildcats had three drives of at least 10 plays against Red Mountain.
It didn’t translate into many points last week. The Lions’ lone touchdown came on a 7 1/2-minute drive that featured a backup punter running for a first down, and two pass attempts (the second being the game-winning touchdown) for an 8-7 baseball-like final score. Gracey said Bevan practiced all week and is cleared to play Friday.
It has, however, offered the possibility that Mesquite can move the ball. And if it can move the ball, it’s capable of scoring more. And if it scores more with its defense...
“I’d be worried if I were other teams if our offense picks it up,” Gracey said. “Our defense is pretty good. We can be very dangerous if we can get our offense moving. I think we can. It’s going to be a process.”