They shared an opponent this season in powerhouse Peoria Centennial, but for Phoenix Brophy and Chandler, it was an appetizer in preparation for this six-week gorgefest.
Both were beaten by the three-time 5A-II champion Coyotes, albeit in vastly different ways. Even though Fiesta Region play gets in full swing this week, the Wolves — who won their region opener against Mesa last week — weren’t shy about the difference a game can make in the standings of this crowded crop of top-notch teams.
“It’s a big week for both of us,” Chandler coach Jim Ewan said. “A big matchup, because whoever wins Friday is in much better shape given what’s coming. Whoever wins now will take a little pressure off, whoever loses makes every game do-or-die to make the playoffs.”
Brophy wouldn’t go that far. The Broncos begin region play Friday night in good shape at 3-1 and are likely to get more power points so long as Centennial keeps winning. Despite a few mistakes and questionable calls, the Broncos believe last week’s late-game loss to Centennial is enough to show that they can compete in this crowd.
“That’s what we take from last week’s game,” Broncos coach Scooter Molander said. “(Centennial’s) a top-notch Fiesta-caliber team, if not better. We’ll get better from it.”
Nearly every week from here on out will be a display of strong-armed, fleet quarterbacks. Ewan called Brophy’s Chase Knox “as good as any sophomore QB in the state.”
Following a largely rough night against Centennial, Knox is 54 of 91 passing for 669 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions.
Molander, a former quarterback himself, called Chandler’s Brett Hundley “a rare great athlete who can throw and do it accurately.”
Hundley is 34 of 55 passing for 435 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
There is more. Brophy’s Max Leonesio has been one of the best running backs in 5A the past two seasons, while Hundley (423 yards, 12.8 yards per carry) has been most of the Wolves’ running game since taking over as the starting quarterback two weeks ago, and will be until Arizona State-commit Taylor Walstad returns in a few weeks.
Both defenses are aggressive and can run.
“We’re going to try and get to them and come after people,” Ewan said. “We’ll try to do some of what Centennial did. That’s our plan against most everyone: Stunt, aggressive and gamble now and then.”
It may be the only way to gain an advantage in a region where those who hesitate will lose.