It’s a lot of fun to watch the East Valley’s best go toe-to-toe throughout the season, and there will be no shortage of those heavyweight showdowns in upcoming weeks.
Sometimes, though, it’s also nice to watch them take on some new blood.
Many hopeful Division I contenders have gotten off on the right foot against out-of-area competition.
Mountain Pointe started it off two weeks ago with the impressive win over Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and had no trouble rolling past Phoenix North on Friday. A pair of Chandler schools got in on the action this week, as Chandler High and Basha both flexed some early-season muscle.
The Wolves dismantled Peoria Centennial on Thursday night, 41-21. Quarterback Bryce Perkins made good decisions most of the time and showed off his dual-threat capabilities. Chase Lucas is the newest speedster in the backfield, but the most favorable development might have been the play of the defense. The Wolves are young in some areas, but cornerback Wesley Sutton had a big game and the defensive line consistently got a push. If Chandler’s defense can continue to hold offenses to 21 points, Perkins and Co. should have plenty of firepower to do the rest.
Basha was just as impressive, cruising to a 41-17 win over one of Nevada’s better teams, Henderson Green Valley. Quarterback Zach Werlinger proved he can still produce without last year’s top targets, Nate Phillips and Ronnie Querry, as he threw four touchdown passes. Running back Rajhan Meriwether had a big game, and the defense did a good job of slowing Green Valley’s high-powered attack.
When the season started, it seemed clear that both Mountain Pointe and Desert Ridge would be among the top contenders to Hamilton’s throne based on last year’s accomplishments and the personnel returning.
Basha and Chandler were both eliminated from the state tournament early in 2012, and though both were no-brainer selections to be ranked in 2013, they needed to prove they had the pieces to be considered legitimate contenders.
It’s an ideal start for both programs, as they quickly answered those questions about perceived weaknesses. Soon, all of these teams are going to start knocking each other around — akin to SEC play in college football — but this is a good reminder about what they can do against more unfamiliar opponents.
Brophy’s impressive win over Desert Mountain has suddenly made its game against Hamilton this week more intriguing. The Broncos are still underdogs, but if the defense can repeat last week’s performance, it might be able to make it competitive.
Chaparral scored 52 points against Saguaro on Friday night and Marcos de Niza scored 56 against Horizon, so expect some points in that Week 2 matchup.
The Padres ended the Firebirds’ streak of three state titles in a row in last year’s Division II quarterfinals.
Basha got off to a great start and will look to keep it going against Peoria Centennial, Red Mountain travels out of state to take on Westlake (Calif.) and Williams Field heads to Mesquite for an interesting showdown.
Last but not least, Poston Butte and Dobson face off in a matchup with family ties. Mike De La Torre coaches the Broncos while his father, George De La Torre, coaches Dobson. George referred to it in the preseason as the “Who’s Your Daddy Bowl.”
Queen Creek star running back Matt Guida missed most of the second half of Friday’s win over Highland with a left leg injury. He rushed for 114 yards and three touchdowns up to that point. Saguaro center Matt Mara fractured his fibula and dislocated his ankle on the third play from scrimmage against Chaparral. He was taken off the field in an ambulance and will miss the rest of the season. Sabercats starting running back/linebacker Erik Swanson sprained his ankle in the 52-27 loss but should be fine.
Skyline wide receiver Logan Ruppert: Even though Ruppert is usually a wide receiver, injuries forced him to running back early in the Coyotes’ contest against St. Mary’s. He responded with 14 carries for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s impressive 42-0 victory. Skyline ran for 449 yards in the game.
Chaparral offense: The Firebirds have stars galore offensively and will be tough for anyone to slow down this year. Running back Elijah Castro was the standout against Saguaro on Friday night, rushing for 177 yards and four touchdowns. Tyler Whiley (56 rushing yards, 24 receiving yards, TD), Trevor Wood (five catches, 72 yards), Israel Simpson (four catches, 96 yards) and Malcolm Thomas (57 rushing yards, TD) all played well and gave an early glimspe of the team’s talent and depth.
Higley offense: The Knights had both the passing and running games working in a 58-14 win over Yuma. Tyler Bloom threw for 374 yards and two touchdowns, while Ricky Marshall (seven carries, 164 yards), Nicholas Bush (six carries, 123 yards), Kole Hunter (five receptions, 116 yards) and Nick Colson (five receptions, 109 yards) all had big games for Higley.
Desert Mountain: The Wolves had a bunch of hype behind the star duo of quarterback Kyle Allen and wideout Mark Andrews heading into the season. Allen threw for 257 yards on the night but it took him 43 attempts and Andrews had 109 yards receiving, but Desert Mountain didn’t score until under 10 seconds remaining in the 13-6 loss to Brophy. Furthermore, the Wolves had two field goals and a punt blocked. The defense played well, but the other facets need improving if the Wolves want to be an elite team.
Corona del Sol’s defense: The Aztecs had a winnable game down in Sierra Vista on Friday night, but had a very tough time slowing down the Colts’ offense. Buena threw for 282 yards and ran for 236 more in a 61-46 victory. Corona del Sol had some positive developments offensively — especially the performance of quarterback R.J. Rhiner — but needs to shore up the defense to have a shot at the postseason.