Chandler v. Highland

Two 4-1 teams battle it out. A blocked extra point would be the difference.

This game showcased two very good 4-1 teams. Highland came into Chandler territory with their only loss coming in the second week at Mesa Mountain View. Highland's defeat also came in the second week, falling to Mesa Dobson. The fans on both sides were ready for a battle.


Fireworks came right on the opening kickoff. Senior WR Ty West returned Chandler's offering for a 99 yards touchdown, running up the middle then speeding to his left. The PAT was good, and after only 16 seconds into the game, the Hawks led 7-0.


Senior K Mike DiGangi pooch-kicked the next play, which junior RB Bryce Lamb recovered for the Wolves at the 13 yard line. Four straight Chandler runs by senior RB Jamil Hines and senior RB Steven Jackson moved the ball 26 yards to their own 39 yard line. Senior QB Payton Lacivita then found senior WR Archie Woulard for an eight yard pass. On 2nd and 2, Hines ran up his left side for 11 yards. Then, Lamb ran for another five yards to the 37. From there, Highland's defense took over. Senior DL Kevin Dever stuffed a run five yards in the backfield, setting up 3rd and 10. On the next play, junior DB Will Shaw intercepted a Lacivita pass for the first turnover of the game.


Highland's offense couldn't get anything going on their first possession. Senior QB Jeremy Fuhst's first pass fell incomplete. Senior RB Brandon Shines got only three yard on his first run. A false start penalty then put the Hawks on their own 33 yard line. A reverse by West didn't work after losing two yards. Facing 4th and 14, Senior RB Mike Madrid set up to punt. His 13 yard punt went off the side of his foot, giving Chandler great field position.


The Wolves were unable to capitalize, however. Two runs each by Jackson and Hines, an incomplete pass by Lacivita, and a failed WR sweep by Woulard set up 3rd and 17 from the 37. A screen to Hines seemed to work, except for the fact that Hines fumbled the ball in the air, which Madrid scooped up for Highland.


Two runs by junior RB Eli West, an eight yard pass by Fuhst, and a tackle in the backfield by Chandler's junior DL Sam Forni brought an end to the first quarter. On 2nd and 13, Fuhst was hurried by senior DE Dion Jordan, causing an incomplete pass. Another incomplete pass set up 4th down. Another Madrid punt downed the ball at the Chandler 19 yard line.


Two Hines runs and three Lacivita passes set up 3rd and 1 from the Wolves' 38 yard line. Jackson would take the next toss up the right side for a 62 yard touchdown run. The PAT was good, tying the score at 7 with 8:29 left in the first half.


Highland responded on its next drive with the help of a 15 yard face mask penalty by Jordan. A beautiful 39 yard touchdown pass from Fuhst to Ty West in the corner of the end zone through double coverage gave the Hawks the 13-7 lead. Jordan somewhat made up for his penalty by blocking the extra point attempt.


After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Chandler wasted no time scoring again. Two Hines runs set up 3rd and 5 from the 25. From there, Lacivita found Jordan for a 26 yard pass. A 15 yard face mask penalty on Highland put the ball on the Hawks' 34 yard line. Lamb then ran a nine yard sweep, but a holding penalty on the Wolves sent them back to the 47 yard line. Lacivita then found Jordan again on the right side for a touchdown pass. The PAT was good, giving Chandler a 14-13 lead with 4:08 left in the half.


Highland's next possession brought nothing, with Chandler senior LB Chad Davis leading the defensive stand on that drive.


Starting from their own 34, the Wolves made their last possession of the first half interesting. Lamb, with a great block from Jordan, ran the first play up the right side for 29 yards. A Hines run and another Jordan catch set up a 1st and 10 from the 27. Lamb then ran seven more yards before their drive fell apart. A Woulard HB toss option led to an intentional grounding penalty, setting up 3rd and 22. A 10 yard run by Lacivita led to a field goal attempt by senior K Thomas Farfan, which he missed wide left. Turnover on downs.


Highland then ended the half with a two yard run by Eli West. After two quarters, Highland trailed Chandler 14-13.


The second half was all about defense. A 20 yard return by Jackson started the drive for Chandler at the 25. After a Jackson two yard run, Lacivita found Jordan again for a 30 yard pass that reached Highland's 43. Two plays after that, Jackson fumbled the rock, which was picked up by junior Hawk DL Jared Ashton at the 41.


Chandler would get the ball back, however, five plays later when Fuhst found senior CB Marc Anthony - who just so happens to play on the other team. The Wolves couldn't do anything with the ball, though, as junior DL James Pazos and Madrid stuffed the Chandler running game. Junior P Kyle Trella booted a rocket for 48 yards, pinning Highland on their own 15 to start.


Highland would hold on to the ball through the end of the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth, a 3rd and 5 from Chandler's 29 yard line, sophomore DL Ammon Samia made a big play in the backfield, stuffing Ty West on the direct snap. A 47 yard field goal attempt by DiGangi fell short, giving Chandler the ball back.


The Wolves used up much of the 4th quarter clock on their next drive. It took Chandler five plays to reach Highland's 42 after a Jackson sweep to the left side, but a holding penalty enforced from the spot of the foul set the Wolves back to their own 35. On 1st and 19, Jordan dropped a sure first down, uncanny of him to do so. Three plays later, Highland's prayers were answered after forcing Chandler to punt, getting the ball back with 7:08 left in the game.


Unfortunately for the Hawks, the 4th quarter was not the best time to have a three-and-out.


The Wolves returned the favor four plays later, after Highland's defensive line stuffed Chandler on 4th and 3. The turnover on downs meant the Wolves would have to have one last, great defensive stand for the night.


The stand lasted all of one play, after senior Hawk WR Josh Valenzuela coughed up the football, which senior CB Lee Peyton snatched in the air for Chandler.


Five runs and one pass from the Wolves forced Highland to use a timeout with 1:24 left. On 2nd and 12 from the Hawks' 27, Lamb iced the game with a 15 yard sweep to the left. Two QB kneel downs later gave the Chandler Wolves a 14-13 victory over the visiting Highland Hawks.


"Practice and preparation was the key for us this week," said Chandler RB Steven Jackson. "Last week, we were kind of going through the motions, but we just kept fighting tonight." 


FINAL: Highland Hawks 13-14 Chandler Wolves


Bottom Line


Highland is for real. They were able to make great offensive, defensive, and special teams plays, just not enough of them. Ty West left the game with an apparent ankle injury, which means someone else has to step up for the Hawks. Expect them to be tough during the playoffs.


Chandler has some big lineman on the perimeters, but their interior isn't as beefy. If their offensive line can continue to get a push for their skill players, I think they could go deep into the second season.


Hit of the Night


On 2nd and 7 from their own 23 yard line on their fist possession of the fourth quarter, Highland TE James Pazos got rocked by Chandler LB Chad Davis, knocking him out of the game.


Game Balls


Highland WR Ty West was all over the field for the Hawks. His effort kept his team in the game throughout.


Chandler RB Steven Jackson had over 100 yards rushing to go along with his touchdown. The steady running game kept the ball away from Highland for most of the night.

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