Chaparral v. Marana

Firebirds Present Intricate Picture in Dominant Opener

Chaparral dominated Marana last night 32-9 in a game not nearly as close as indicated by the final score, as lopsided as it actually was. Charlie Ragle got the victory in his first game as a head coach mostly because the Firebirds were dominant on defense. Marana could not move the ball past midfield until the final two minutes when Chaparral had removed nearly all of its defensive starters.


In fact, Marana's heralded quarterback, Robert Rowe, simply could not operate because of Chaparral's superior speed and constant pressure, particularly from the defensive ends and linebackers. Rowe ran 16 times for 62 yards, but 25 of those yards came at the very end when he finally directed Marana for its lone touchdown with 1:05 left to play on a 10-yard pass over the middle, which was caught by someone other than the intended receiver. Overall, Rowe could complete only five of 24 passes for 54 yards. He could not get to the outside on his runs and most of his passes were not catchable.


It's difficult to say for sure without looking at the film, but the best impressions among the Chaparral defenders were left by ends Craig Roh and Ryan Holmes (both of whom had sacks) and middle linebacker Tommy Russell, who recovered a fumble early at the Marana 3 to set up Chaparral's first touchdown. Later, when Marana looked to perhaps be mounting a threat, left outside linebacker Charlie Lytle blitzed through so quickly that he swatted Rowe's pass back farther than it traveled forward. That came on the opening drive of the second half with the Firebirds leading 12-2 (Marana had scored on a safety on a snap over the punter's head). Afterward, Marana was never able to come close to moving the ball (until the very end). Deveron Carr gives Chaparral another shutdown corner across from the still amazing Michael Cummings.


Offensively, it was a different and almost bizarre story for Chaparral, but one clearly headed for a productive ending. Senior quarterback Blake Schembri, in a new system after transferring from North Canyon, clearly struggled with his throwing. In fact, after Chaparral's second touchdown midway through the second quarter, Schembri was pulled after he short-armed a pass for the two-point conversion into the ground a few yards in front of his open receiver. Nonetheless, it would not be the last of him.


That second Chaparral touchdown, by the way, came on an 82-yard run by Carr on a third and long play. He went up the middle on a misdirection play (or so it appeared from the stands) made one cut to the left and outran the Marana defenders down the left sideline. Later, Carr had a similar 63-yarder for a touchdown that was nullified by a penalty. In all, he ran for 92 yards on four carries.


But back to quarterback. Schembri simply did not look comfortable in completing only three of his first 8 passes for 38 yards. He also was under early pressure from the Marana defensive line and was sacked twice and intercepted at the Marana 5 on a ball that might have been knocked short by a stiff wind. Spencer Stone, another transfer – from Brophy and Newport Beach CA – came in and was much smoother, although he also threw an interception on a play when Marana was able to make him flee the pocket. Overall, though, Stone completed seven of 10 passes for 115 yards. His best throw went across field to his left and was high enough to enable Cummings to jump over the cornerback and haul it in for a 27-yard touchdown and a 19-2 Chaparral lead. Cummings picked up where he left off last year with six catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. The last was the most interesting and came from what at that point appeared to be an unlikely source.


Schembri did not disappear after he was pulled from quarterback. After the half, he emerged at fullback in place of Matt Peterson, who took off his pads because of some kind of injury. Until then, Peterson had run eight times for 63 yards and Chaparral's first score. He was very tough up the middle.


But early in the fourth quarter, Stone took the snap and on a play that looked much like a classic flea-flicker, he pitched back to Schembri who threw the prettiest pass of the night to hit a completely uncovered Cummings in stride for a 50-yard touchdown on the right side. In all, Schembri threw for 88 yards. He also hustled down the field to recover a fumbled punt, recovered an onside kick at the end and ran for 20 yards from the fullback spot. He is a kid who clearly wants to be on the field somewhere.


There is no question that Chaparral again will be among the strongest teams in the state at any level. Questions remain along the offensive line and it will be fascinating to watch how the quarterback situation develops. To be fair, though, as the game progressed the offensive line took more and more control and had its way for most of the second half. The defense will ensure that every game is winnable, and Cummings and Carr give the Firebirds the ability to score virtually from anywhere on the field. For a more clear picture, check back in five weeks.

24-7 Football Top Stories