Chandler has the look of a football team destined to make a deep run in the Division I postseason.
If that comes to fruition, coach Shaun Aguano knows there will be consecutive games against elite competition where his players must rebound mentally and physically in a short time span.
With that in mind, he intentionally scheduled a dry run in the regular season. Last week, the Wolves traveled to California and took on Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Chandler jumped out to a 28-10 lead but eventually lost, 52-31.
Now, it must quickly regroup for a showdown against No. 2 Mountain Pointe, another nationally ranked team and one of its chief competitiors in Division I.
“I did that on purpose, knowing that in the playoffs we’ll need to play two big games one after another,” Aguano said. “It’ll get us battle-tested.”
Chandler and Mountain Pointe stand fimly alongside Desert Ridge and Hamilton as the top four teams in the biggest classification.
This game will showcase some of the state’s elite athletes, as 13 combined players have received a Division I scholarship offer.
Mountain Pointe shocked many in its season opener by defeating Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and has been laying low since then with wins against lower-tier opponents. The Pride will be front and center the next two weeks with this game against Chandler followed by the highly-anticipated matchup with No. 1 Hamilton.
The Pride gashed Bishop Gorman behind the running duo of Paul Lucas and Wesley Payne and the passing game has picked it up of late as well. Quarterback Antonio Hinojosa was a perfect 8-for-8 last week against Maryvale and has thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception. Reigning Gatorade Player of the Year Jalen Brown has 14 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns on the year.
Chandler gave up a boatload of points to St. John Bosco, but despite that, the defense is improved from the last few seasons. Bosco and Chandler combined for 211 plays last week, Aguano said, which helped result in the higher scoring output. The Wolves have otherwise done a good job on that side of the ball in 2013.
“I think our defense is going to do a good job,” Aguano said. “We did well against the Dedrick Young kid against Centennial. But those two running backs are certainly a concern. Then they have Jalen Brown and the QB is back. And the other wide receiver, (Timmy Hernandez). They’ve got weapons.”
The Mountain Pointe defense must also answer the challenge against a talented Chandler offense. Quarterback Bryce Perkins is one of the state’s best dual threats while sophomore tailback Chase Lucas is quickly becoming a star. Add in talented wide receivers Mitch McCulley, Dionte Sykes and Elijah Sykes, and the Pride may be up against the best offense it will see this year.
“You are not going to stop them the whole game,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “They are just too talented. We think we have played good defense all year, but we’ve only played one good team (Bishop Gorman) and we played good against them. This is a different challenge.”
Both of these programs have been very impressive against out-of-area teams. This is the first shot for both against an elite East Valley opponent, and it’s expected to be close. Mountain Pointe captured last season’s matchup by one point in a wild affair.
Each side looks improved, and this one may be another classic.
“This is going to be a good test for us to know where we stand,” Aguano said.