Well boys and girls, what did we learn at the stadiums this week?
This season of discovery and wonderment — is Chaparral really 1-3? — rolls on, and after a weekend of hype, “statement” games and other big-picture babbling, we’re left with the realization that as much as we love wild weekly fluctuations, they wouldn’t feel so wild if they happened every week.
For now, the song remains the same. Sweeping judgements were left on pause.
There was, again, plenty of exciting finishes and kids going crazy, and both Hamilton’s romp over Desert Ridge and Chandler’s crazy comeback win over Basha raised eyebrows.
But did what unfolded Friday night around Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe and beyond skew our sights toward some other radical direction? No.
Hamilton showed its ongoing evolution back into a title contender has begun, it just took a couple difficult lessons and longer track than usual. Desert Ridge found out there’s a long leap between its first three weeks and Hamilton, and learned it better find a passing game by season’s end. Chandler and Basha both learned it can be world-beaters and woeful in the same night.
None of this is shocking, and is Desert Ridge or Basha suddenly no longer a reasonable championship contender? Is it Hamilton’s alone to win because the Huskies played so well? No way.
Skyline discovered what 3-1 feels like (good, isn’t it?), yet 3-3 in two weeks is a real possibility with Desert Ridge and Highland up next. Gilbert discovered what a win feels like (also good). Mountain View enjoyed a blowout in its favor. Unbeaten Desert Mountain sent the Firebirds to another gut-punching loss, unbeaten Marcos de Niza inched closer to Centennial in the Division II pecking order. Red Mountain, the Ahwatukee schools, Queen Creek, Saguaro and (yes) Tempe rolled onward, and the Notre Dame dedication to its former coach, Scot Bemis, was triumphant.
Again, no real surprises. Beyond adjustments to be made, injuries and kids getting healthy and good ol’ Father Time, the needle didn’t move much for or against anybody.
So we must wait some more for answers, rational decision-making and other judgements. Plenty of action and excitement unfolded again — that’s a given — but the core remained constant.
Where is the chaos? There ought to be chaos. Quick, send in the chaos.
Well, maybe, next week.
Turn the page on Tempe
The Tempe-Saguaro debacle is over and done with for now, so let’s move on until the Arizona Interscholastic Association makes a ruling and hands out any warnings, sanctions or punishments in late October.
No more well-meaning but accusatory letters from school principals. No more moronic political demands from a state legistlator who heard things third-hand (stick to politics).
Let’s get back to the games and kids, and enjoy Tempe’s winning ways thus far.
Not to sound whiny, but let’s also get back to Tempe coaches and kids talking to the media after games. It’s another good life experience, and snubbing the press (win or lose) only hurts your cause.
Speaking of Chandler, the Wolves better regroup fast, because Chandler has to travel to Ahwatukee and take on No. 1 Mountain Pointe.
The Wolves won 35-24 at Chandler in last year’s meeting, but the Pride are a better team than in 2011, especially on offense.
The Wolves will face a much-improved passing game and defense from last year’s version of the Pride, who are coming off an easy victory at Sierra Vista Buena in Tucson on Friday night.
Conversely, how will Basha handle Friday night’s hugely disappointing finish? The Bears also need to lick their wounds quickly because Highland isn’t going to help them heal.
Scottsdale might be the other place to be next week. Horizon and Pinnacle will tangle in a matchup of undefeateds. The Huskies and Pioneers each have yet to play against an elite team, and a battle of running games should emerge here.
Speaking of undefeateds, Desert Mountain is off to a storybook start at 4-0 after beating rival-Chaparral for the second time in the past five meetings. The Wolves get Notre Dame at Scottsdale Community College this week, as the Saints continue to deal with a difficult schedule in trying to squeeze into a playoff spot.
In the Southeast Valley, Desert Ridge is heavy favorites against neighboring Skyline, but the coaching connections (Skyline coach Angelo Paffumi was a Desert Ridge assistant until last spring) and kids familiar with one another should be a nice sideshow.
Though struggling for wins, Westwood has been a thorn in the side for a couple bigger schools already this year, and Mountain View is next on the Warrors’ list after the Toros enjoyed a blowout win at Glendale Mountain Ridge on Friday night.
•Last ‘D’ standing: Williams Field took a stand and shut out Canyon del Oro in the final 1 1/2 quarters of the Black Hawks’ 27-23 victory, led by a school-record six sacks by Drew Burgesser. Desert Mountain did it when Daniel Fedorka and senior linebacker Steven Campbell stopped Chaparral receiver Tyler Whiley inside the Wolves’ 1-yard line on fourth down. Who said only offense matters?
•Bouncebacks: Highland was embarrassed last week by Desert Ridge, and the Hawks took it out on Corona del Sol on Friday. Gilbert has been shoved around for three weeks but the Tigers got off the carpet to earn win No. 1 of the season. Skyline lost 42-0 to Mountain View last week, but turned around and beat Dobson. Valley Christian was whooped each of the past two weeks, went down to Casa Grande and beat a Div. III team. On a more micro-level, Chandler was being thumped by Basha at halftime. Unless it’s the playoffs, this is why one half or even one game shouldn’t lead to drastic mood swings.
•Hamilton principal Fred DePrez: Like it or not, he’s been in the spotlight, a couple times for decisions and moves he probably wishes didn’t draw attention, but the guy can run a school. DePrez is headed to Washington D.C. soon to possibly claim some national education and leadership hardware. Say what you want about the Chandler schools, their affluence in certain areas and influence in others, but great schools and districts — academics, athletics and cultural education — start at the top.
•Basha defense: Yes, fumbles by the offense (which has been an issue for the Bears most of the season) didn’t help the cause. Neither did facing Chandler’s dynamic offense which was destined to sprout after being dormant for the first half. The problem is at some point, a team with championship aspirations can’t expect its offense to score 40 or even 30 points every week to beat other elite teams. Some weeks, a defense stuck in uncomfortable situations is going to have to lead in a 17-14 or 14-10 victory.
•Clarity: Despite the big-time matchups in the Chandler schools, plus Desert Ridge and the Ahwatukee schools, not much was learned this week that we didn’t surmise last week in terms of the respective Divisions’ pecking order as we approach the halfway juncture of the regular season. Things will shake out a bit in the next few weeks for sure (especially in Division I) but until then we’re stuck tapping our foot and biding time.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.