RICH BOLAS TODAY STAFF The Willow Canyon High School football team and Chris Robinson have both come of age this season. In their third year at the varsity level, the Wildcats have finally enjoyed the success to go along with their hard work. Willow Canyon enters Northwest Region play with a 4-1 record after winning just five games in its previous two years of competition. Robinson has been a big part of that success. "Chris is one of those kids who came into the program at its inception and has laid the foundation for our football success," said Mike Hudnutt, second-year head coach. "I think Chris also realized that football could be his ticket to college athletics and he has stepped it up a notch this season." On offense, the 6-foot, 170-pound Robinson has been the big-play weapon for Willow Canyon. The senior has turned three of his seven catches into touchdowns and is averaging 28.7 yards per reception. On defense, Robinson has been the quarterback of the secondary from his free safety position. He also has shown a knack for finding the football, coming up with an interception and a fumble recovery. "I think a lot my success this year comes from just being more experienced," the 17-year-old Surprise resident said. "The other thing is I put in a lot of hard work this summer and I think that's made me faster as a player." That hard work paid immediate dividends in Willow Canyon's 27-24 double-overtime win on the road at La Joya in the season opener. Robinson caught a 52-yard touchdown pass, recovered a fumble when he broke up an option pitch from the quarterback, and capped the night with an interception in the end zone to stall a fourth-quarter La Joya drive. "I think the biggest thing for Chris is his understanding of the importance of the free safety as well as his knowledge of the game," Hudnutt said. "His knowledge of the game is at the point where I can move him from safety to corner during a game and he understands his responsibilities." Robinson's intellect carries over from the football field to the classroom, where he carries a 3.5 grade-point average. The son of Warren and Mary Robinson said it was a thrill to look into the stands and see the faces of his parents after scoring his first varsity touchdown against La Joya. "It was nice to see them out there," Robinson said. "It meant a lot to me." Robinson has continued to make big plays for the Wildcats, who carry a two-game win streak into the region opener at Boulder Creek this Friday. The senior caught a 48-yard strike from quarterback Trey Clarida for the lone touchdown of the game in a 10-3 win against Camelback two weeks ago. Against Ironwood Ridge, the Wildcats' lone defeat, Robinson caught a 57-yard touchdown pass as the team rallied from a 19-point deficit before falling 19-14. "It's hard to say whether Chris' strength as a player is on offense or defense," Hudnutt said. "Going into this season, it would have been easy to say offense. "He hasn't let down on offense this year, but his defense has really stepped up." Just like the fortunes of the Willow Canyon football team.