After Highland began the season with a 1-2 record, coach Pete Wahlheim discussed with his team the idea of winning its next four games before a brutal end to the season against the three Chandler powerhouses (Hamilton, Chandler and Basha).
The Hawks responded with three straight wins and Friday night’s 38-10 victory over Perry secured the team’s goal of a 5-2 record after seven games.
“Our kids are starting to get healthy, we are starting to feel good about ourselves,” said Wahlheim. “That was the goal when we were 1-2, to get this thing righted. (Playing) all four Chandler schools in a row is tough but we will compete.”
Highland quarterback Blake Young was in control all night. The senior was 8-13 for 185 yards and a touchdown, leading a balanced Hawk offense.
“Blake is a good game manager,” said Wahlheim. “He makes the throws he has to make. We have to be able to throw the ball and we did just enough tonight to keep them (Perry) honest.”
Young’s favorite target on the night was wide receiver Jake Brown. The senior finished with four catches for 121 yards on the night.
“One thing my coaches harp on me is that we have tall receivers, so I have to just give them a chance,” said Young. “A lot of times if he (Brown) is hip-to-hip they just tell me to throw it up and give him a chance because he is going to go up and get that ball.”
Brown did just that twice on Highland’s first scoring drive of the game. Young and Brown hooked up for 37 and 24 yards, respectively, and running back Ryan McCord capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Hawks up 7-0 late in the first quarter.
After Noe Miller hit a 36-yard field goal to put Highland up 10-0 midway through the second quarter, the Hawks once again found the endzone with less than a minute to play in the half. Young found Colin Gardner for an 8-yard touchdown pass to put Highland up 17-0 heading into halftime.
Perry (2-5) came out of halftime and had their best drive of the game. The Pumas took up over five minutes of game time and marched down the field, converting a fake punt to extend the drive. The Pumas settled for a 29-yard field goal from Mitchell Albrect to pull Perry within two touchdowns.
However, on the next play, Highland cornerback Chris Brewster took the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to put the Hawks up 24-3.
“It was a very, very big play in the game,” said Wahlheim. “I think it broke their (Perry) back. They were feeling good about themselves, that was a big play momentum wise.”
The Pumas added a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Highland took its starters out on defense. Perry head coach Preston Jones was proud that his team battled for four quarters.
"We just have to keep trying to get better, tonight was a gut check,” said Jones. “Our kids didn’t quit, we kept going with the right tempo and they gave a full effort.”
The Pumas have now lost four games in a row and play at Chandler next week.
Highland 38, Perry 10
First Downs: H 13, P 11
Rushing: H 36-130, P 40-77
Passing (Comp.-Att-Yards-TD-INT): H 9-14-195-1-0, P 11-21-132-1-0
Fumbles-Lost: H 0-0, P 0-0
Penalties-Yards: H 5-45, P 1-5
H - McCord 5 run (Miller kick0
H - Miller 36 FG
H - Gardner 8 pass from Young (Miller kick0
P - Albrect 29 FG
H - Brewster 95 KO return (Miller kick)
H - Chadwick 1 run (Miller kick)
H - Zapp 10 pass from McEuen (Miller kick)
P - Spilsbury 6 pass from Monte (Albrect kick)