Chaparral may have racked up 421 yards of total offense, but the real story came on the defensive side of the ball for the No. 3 Firebirds, recording eight sacks in a 35-21 victory over No. 6 Marcos de Niza in the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs Friday night.
Chaparral will go for its 11th straight victory as it heads to the Div. II semifinals against No. 2 Mesquite, which won an overtime thriller in its quarterfinals game Friday night over No. 7 Campo Verde, 26-20. The game will be played at Gilbert High School next Friday at 7 p.m.
"I thought defensively we were outstanding. All night we were pressuring Josh (Eckley), and we knew we were going to have to do that, he's a heck of a football player," Chaparral Coach David Huffine said among a few hundred students after they rushed the field, a tradition for the Firebird faithful. "I thought defensively we did an outstanding job. Our defensive line, our defensive front, we put together a great defensive scheme and it was a total team effort."
Eckley, a senior, had six passing touchdowns and ran for another in his team's 56-45 win over Chaparral (11-1) on Sept. 6, the last time the Firebirds lost a game, but he was unable to repeat that success Friday night.
"It feels great," Chaparral junior quarterback Sean Paul Brophy said after he was asked what it felt like to earn retribution for the early season loss to the Padres. "I have a lot of respect personally for Marcos de Niza. I have a lot of respect for their quarterback, Josh Eckley, he's a huge playmaker. It feels great to finally beat them, I don't mean that in a negative way, but it couldn't be any sweeter than this."
Eckley was responsible for all three touchdowns for Marcos de Niza (7-5), completing 9 of 20 passes for 198 yards and a score. He ran 19 times for 60 yards and two more scores, the first of which came on a 29-yard run with 38 seconds to go in the first quarter to tie the game, 7-7.
Tyler Whiley gave Chaparral an early 7-0 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run, the first of three on the night for the senior. Whiley said it "feels good" to finally get a win over the Padres, which had beaten Chaparral three straight times coming into Friday night's contest.
"It's about time we got one my senior year, so it feels good," Whiley said with a big smile.
Late in the second quarter and tied at 7-7, the Padres were inside Chaparral's own 5-yard-line with a first-and-goal situation before Eckley fumbled the handoff to his halfback and the Firebirds recovered.
"There were a couple of moments in this game, the fumble near the end zone, a couple of momentum shifters that cost us," Marcos de Niza interim coach Sean Morin said.
Brophy took advantage, answering with a 42-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Izzy Simpson, who had nine catches for 162 yards, giving the Firebirds a 14-7 lead with 1:02 to go before the half.
"We had a little momentum (after that)," Huffine said. "That was huge."
Marcos de Niza tied it a 14-14 after a 9-yard Eckley touchdown run at the 8:28 mark in the third quarter, but Chaparral would score three straight times after that, including two 1-yard runs by Whiley, to put the game out of reach.
"We started out off a little slow offensively, we had to get going," Huffine said. "(Marcos de Niza) did a good job defensively. I have to give them credit, they came and they had a plan and they executed it very well and it took us a while."
Up three scores, Chaparral's defensive front was able to pin their ears back and focus solely on going after Eckley.
"It wasn't always (our plan) to bring the house. We had to spy him a little bit, drop into coverage, but for the most part we had to heat him up and stay in our pass rush lanes and we did an outstanding job at that," Huffine said. "It was an outstanding team effort."
Morin said he knew Chaparral was going to try and pressure his quarterback, Eckley, but the protection scheme's they practiced didn't work out.
"We had six-man protection most of the night to try to deal with that, and they were still beating it. It is what it is. We have to be on those plays," Morin said. "Hats off to Chaparral."
Brophy, who was sacked only once all night, completed 15 of 22 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown, was pleased with his team's effort on offense.
"I couldn't be more proud of our offense. We had to replace some offensive lineman and had some young guys really step up," Brophy said. "I think we moved the ball well, but the main thing is we didn't turn the ball over at all. Offensively we ran the ball well, we through the ball well, and we made some big plays when the ball was up in the air and I'm looking forward to next week."
Chaparral 35, Marcos de Niza 21
First Downs: Chaparral 20, Marcos de Niza 12
Rushing: Chaparral 45-158, Marcos de Niza 25-74
Passing: (comp.-att.-yards-TD-INT): Chaparral 15-22-263-1-1, Marcos de Niza 9-20-198-1-0
Fumbles-lost: Chaparral 1-0, Marcos de Niza 3-2
Penalties: Chaparral 14-125, Arcadia 5-30
Marcos de Niza 7 0 7 7 — 21
Chaparral 7 7 14 7 — 35
C: Whiley 2 run (Packal kick)
M: Eckley 29 run (Ketterer kick)
C: Simpson 42 pass from Brophy (Packal kick)
M: Eckley 9 run (Ketterer kick)
C: Whiley 1 run (Packal kick)
C: Castro 9 run (Packal kick)
C: Whiley 1 run (Packal kick)
M: Nguyen 3 pass from Eckley (Ketterer kick)