The Chandler-Hamilton series has plenty of sizzle, but head northward if you want steak.
It's still early out of the gate of this Fiesta Region race, but Mesa Red Mountain and Phoenix Brophy clash with a chance to take at least part-ownership of first place in the early going of this region's clustered competition.
That was on display last week. Brophy trailed 14-3 to Chandler at one point but chipped away at the lead and took advantage of a late Chandler fumble to tie the game in regulation with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Chase Knox to a sprawled-out Max Eller in the back of the end zone on fourth down with 50 seconds left.
The Broncos blocked Chandler's extra-point on the Wolves' touchdown in overtime, then successfully converted theirs on a touchdown to win.
"We moved the ball well and stuck the course, and our defense comes up big again," Broncos coach Scooter Molander said. "How can we not be happy with our defense? They've really, really played well for three games, and against Centennial played well enough to win, but turnovers hurt us, and almost the same thing happened last week."
Meanwhile, the Mountain Lions hung on against a resilient Mesa squad. The Mountain Lions survived a potential game-tying drive late and the loss of running backs Derek Molina (hamstring) and backup Dominic Smith (hip pointer).
Both barely practiced this week and, though he cringed at the cliche, Red Mountain coach Jim Jones called them game-time decisions.
"Really, that's what it's going to have to be," he said.
The health (or lack thereof) of Molina (691 yards rushing, plus kickoff returns) and Smith (263 yards) could have a significant impact on this game, because both teams are as balanced as any in 5A. The Mountain Lions have run for 1,205 yards and passed for 1,087. The Broncos have run for 863 behind Max Leonesio, and Knox has thrown for 885.
The Mountain Lions brought up a couple of junior varsity players in case of emergency, and Jones won't change the team's approach against Brophy even if his top two backs can't play.
"It's a hell of a way to get some competition," he said. "You just go on and see what happens."
What's likely to happen is the winner will have a heaping helping of positive vibes heading into next week's bye.
"If we walk out of there with a win we're going to be in pretty good shape, and Brophy is thinking the same thing," Jones said. "It'll be a boon for the region. Both these games will put one of us in the driver's seat."