If Chandler coach Jim Ewan can get his team to look past the scoreboard, Friday night could play a pivotal role for the Wolves as they move forward.
For now, though, his team is left to ponder a 61-38 loss to 5A-II top-ranked Peoria Centennial at Austin Field in Chandler that was a humbling learning experience.
“We let the game get away from us, especially in the first half,” Ewan said. I think they outhit us, and I was disappointed in that.”
One thing Ewan wasn’t disappointed in was the play of junior quarterback Brett Hundley. With starter Kyle Yount struggling, Ewan gave Hundley the reins in the second half as the Wolves faced a 34-6 deficit. Hundley led Chandler (1-1) on four scoring drives and looked like he was in full control of the offense.
“Brett does some special things,” Ewan said. “Kyle’s going to play somewhere and he’s going to play some quarterback, but we’ve got to take a look at Brett because he brings another dimension to us.”
The Wolves will need that extra dimension in the upcoming weeks with the loss of starting running back Taylor Walstad, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with a torn patella tendon.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Hundley opened the game at receiver. It was from his receiver position that Hundley threw for the Wolves’ only touchdown of the first half, a 32-yard bomb to Michael Jordan on a trick play.
The Wolves had their chances to stay in the game. Trailing 14-6 late in the first half, the Wolves were deep in Coyotes territory when Yount was sacked and fumbled. Six plays later, Centennial (2-0) scored on a 5-yard pass from Dain McFarland to fullback Austin Arias.
Chandler’s next possession was a short one, as Centennial’s Roc Lopez hit Yount from behind and the Coyotes recovered the fumble at the Wolves 7-yard line. Anthony Hughes needed just one play to score his third TD of the half.
Hughes finished with 124 yards on 15 carries.
Chandler drove deep into Centennial territory late in the second quarter, but a blocked field goal gave the ball back to the Coyotes, who scored on the final play of the first half to go up 34-6.
“We had some chances, but when you are playing a team as talented as Centennial, those plays have to work,” Ewan said. “We left our defense out there too many times, and you can’t make those mistakes against that kind of team.”
Centennial, the two-time defending champion in 5A-II, won its 28th straight game.
When Hundley came on in the second half, the Wolves moved the ball consistently.
Hundley finished the second half with 150 yards passing, completing 12 of his 16 attempts. Combined with his first-half touchdown, Hundley finished with three scoring tosses, one to Jordan and one each to Jeremy Morris and Richard Winston. He also had 55 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Chandler scored 24 points in the fourth quarter.
“We challenged the kids at halftime. We knew the score was out of hand, but what we needed to do was find some kids who wanted to compete,” Ewan said. “We gave Brett the whole half, and he took advantage of it. We found a few kids who wanted to compete.”
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Centennial starts the scoring with a four-play, 65-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead with 9:58 left in the first quarter. Hughes has runs of 39 and 21 yards on the drive, with the 21-yard run finishing in the end zone.
Chandler pulls a little trickeration, with QB Kyle Yount throwing lateral to Brett Hundley, who then hits a wide-open Michael Jordan for a 32-yard TD. Missed extra point makes it 7-6 Centennial.
Hughes scores on a 4-yard TD run to put Centennial up 14-6 in the final minute of the first quarter.
Centennial fullback Austin Arias catches a swing pass that he turns into a 49-yard gain, then follows that up with a 5-yard TD catch from Dain McFarland to put Centennial up 20-6 in the second quarter.
Hughes runs around left end for a 7-yard score to put Centennial ahead 27-6 late in the first half.
Chandler had a first-and-goal on the Centennial 4-yard line but then had a field-goal blocked. Centennial ran it back past midfield and now has the ball on Chandler 38 with under a minute remaining in the half.
Bad news for Centennial: Vegas Johnson was down for a while and was helped off field. He was walking fine, but it appeared to be a shoulder injury.
Centennial's Dain McFarland scores on a QB sneak on the final play of the first half to make it 34-6 Coyotes.
At the half, Chandler has just 29 yards rushing on 13 attempts and 87 yards passing.
Centennial has 165 yards rushing and 90 yards passing.
With the offense struggling, Chandler has gone to Brett Hundley at QB in place of Yount. His first play is a 5-yard loss.
On a fourth-and-inches from the Centennial 3, Chandler's lineman, 6-8, 310-pound William Poehls, gets the ball on a handoff and looks like he has enough, but Centennial pushes him back and after three or four seconds, Centennial's Kyle Coffey pulls the ball away and runs 97 yards for the TD. 41-6 Centennial with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
Chandler gets back in the end zone as QB Brett Hundley leads an excellent drive. Hundley had a scrambling pass for 15 yards and then runs of 16 and 22 yards before Oshae Hatcher capped off the drive with a 5-yard TD run. The 2 -point conversion is good, and the score is now 41-14 Centennial.
Centennial responds through the air, as McFarland completes four straight passes capped off by a 19-yard strike to Matt Baugh for a TD. Centennial 48, Chandler 14 early in the fourth.
Brett Hundley makes a superb throw to Jeremy Morris for an 18-yard TD to cut Centennial's lead to 48-22 with 7:59 left in the game. Hundley has looked very good in his time behind center.
Centennial's third- or fourth-string running back, Aaron Smolinski, gets his first carry of the game and makes the most of it, going 56 yards for a TD. Centennial now leads 54-22 in the fourth quarter.
Centennial's one-play scoring drive -- a 45-yard touchdown run -- makes it 61-22 Centennial late in the fourth.
Chandler isn't giving up: Hundley goes in from 14 yards out, and the successful 2-point conversion makes it 61-30 Centennial with 4 minutes left.
Hundley has just thrown another TD pass, this one a 27-yarder to Richard Winston.
The 2-point conversion makes it 61-38 Centennial with 10 seconds left.
Centennial takes a knee and it's over. The final score is Centennial 61, Chandler 38.
Centennial (1-0) at Chandler (1-0)
Time: 7 p.m.
Address: 350 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler
Key matchup: It’s all about Chandler’s front seven. If Centennial’s mammoth offensive line gives running back Anthony Hughes a hole and quarterback Dain McFarland time, they’ll pick the Wolves apart, so speed and smarts must triumph for Chandler.
Key stat: The Wolves committed 18 penalties for 180 yards in last week’s opener.
The intrigue: Three-time defending 5A-II champion Centennial was off last week after beating up McQueen (Nevada), while Chandler fancies itself a state title contender in 5A-I, but the Coyotes are a different animal, so if Chandler can win (or at least keep up) then they’ll know they can compete with the best across 5A.