Corona v. Chandler

Corona comes up big and beats Chandler in a close one

Chandler came into the game without their senior TE/DE Dion Jordan, after Jordan suffered burns to his body in an off-field accident. With Jordan being out for the rest of the season, would the Wolves have enough firepower to hold off Corona del Sol, who came into the game with a record of 4-2?


The Aztecs would receive the ball first, after junior WR Kirby Pellant returned the ball to the 29 yard line. A nine yard run by senior RB J.R. Hamm, followed by a four yard run by senior RB Kyle Schmella moved the ball towards midfield. After a false start penalty, Corona used seven more rushing plays by Pellant, Hamm, and Schmella to reach the one yard line. Hamm then punched it in for the opening score. With the extra point, the Aztecs led by seven.


Chandler's first drive can be described by one word - ugly. Senior QB Payton Lacivita was stopped for no gain on the first play, had an incompletion to junior RB Bryce Lamb, then was sacked by junior DL Tyler Giannonatti on third down. To make matters worse, their punt attempt was blocked by senior DB Lucas Starkey and recovered by senior DB Elijah Chiang at the Wolves' 28 yard line.


Even though they had great field position, Corona was not able to score on this drive. After a two yard run by Hamm and an incomplete pass from sophomore QB Chase Cartwright intended for senior WR Tanner Wear, the Aztecs faced 3rd and 8. A screen to Hamm netted them nine yards with the fumble going out of bounds. Schmella's next run got Corona down to the 10. Another Hamm run then went for a loss of one, setting up 3rd and 6. Pellant then ran a WR sweep for seven yards, but a flag against the home team forced them back out to the 16. On 3rd and 11, a screen to senior WR Eric Benson went for nine yards, leaving the Aztecs with a decision to make on 4th and 2. Head Coach Gary Venturo decided to go for it but Chandler's defensive line made him regret the choice, as they stuffed Hamm at the line of scrimmage, causing a turnover on downs.


The Wolves' second drive was a little better than their first. Starting from their own eight, Chandler would drive 92 yards for their first score of the night. Junior RB Jamil Hines got things going with two runs for seven yards. An eight yard pass from Lacivita to senior RB Steven Jackson, coupled with a flag on Corona, put the ball on the 38. From there, Hines ran for six, senior WR Archie Woulard caught a pass for 10, and senior WR Marc Anthony caught another one for six, leaving the Wolves with a 2nd and 4 from the Aztecs' 25. Lacivita's next swing pass to Lamb gained 22 yards, and along with another Corona penalty, gave Chandler 1st and goal from the nine. After junior LB Evan Altheide tackled Jackson three yards in the backfield, Chandler was called for a penalty. Lacivita and West made the flag irrelevant, though, on the next play, after the QB found the WR wide open in the end zone. After the PAT, the Wolves and Aztecs were tied at seven with 10:26 left in the half.


Corona's next offensive possession was like Chandler's first - ugly. Three plays involving Hamm netted them eight yards. Senior Eric Benson then downed the ball at the Wolves' 29 yard line after a 38 yard punt.


After a run by Hines gained nothing and an incomplete pass to Lamb, Lacivita found senior WR Michael Dunn on a tipped pass for 11 yards (looks like practicing the tip drill during the week paid off Friday night). The next three runs also gained only eight yards, forcing a 33 yard punt from junior P Kyle Trella, which downed the ball at the Aztecs' 19 yard line.


Even with junior WR Ryan Nolan's sweep, Corona went three and out on their next drive. Benson's next punt went all of two yards after a gracious Chandler bounce.


The Wolves wasted no time scoring. After an eight yard Jackson run, Lacivita found Lamb wide open for the 24 yard score. The extra point was good, making the score 14-7 in favor of Chandler with 2:17 to play in the 2nd quarter.


Each team then had one more possession in the first half, but time ran out on Chandler after they reached the Aztecs' 31 yard line. At the half, Corona trailed 14-7.


After Anthony returned the opening kickoff of the second half to their own 40 yard line, the Wolves could not get their offense going. A three and out resulted in the Aztecs taking over at their own eight yard line.


It was Corona's turn to put together a time-consuming 92 yard scoring drive. Eight running plays by Hamm, senior RB Cheovaris Jumpp (who went into the game after Hamm was injured), Schmella, Cartwright, and Pellant, plus three passes to senior TE Lucas Starkey, Benson, and senior TE Joey Kamper put the ball right at Chandler's four yard line. Two plays later, Hamm would return and punch it in for the score. The PAT was blocked, however, by Lamb, preserving the 14-13 lead for Chandler.


The Wolves would get a big break on the ensuing kickoff, after the ball went out of bounds, a penalty. With the ball at their own 44 yard line, Chandler did not have very far to go to score their next touchdown. Despite a holding penalty, Jackson, Lacivita, and Hines had a total of 39 rushing  yards on the drive, including a three yard run by Jackson on 4th and 1 from the Aztecs' 16 yard line. Lacivita also added a 16 yard pass to Woulard during the drive to set up 1st and 10 from the 13. From there, Hines ran behind the left side of his offensive line and gave the Wolves their last points of the night. With the extra point and only 1:04 left in third quarter, Chandler led 21-13.


Sophomore Corona running back Michael Lange came up big on the next kickoff, returning the ball one yard short of midfield. Cartwright wasted no time scoring for the Aztecs, as he found Benson open on the right side of the field for a 51 yard touchdown pass (talk about efficiency). Cartwright then used the same formula on the two point attempt, converting when Benson found a hole in the end zone. With 44.8 seconds left in the third quarter, the game was tied at 21.


Benson would come up big for Corona on the Wolves' next drive. On the fifth play, a Lacivita pass intended for senior TE Sam Dohm instead wound up in Benson's hands.


Taking over in Chandler territory, the Aztecs faced 2nd and 6 from the 20 after three runs by Pellant, Hamm, and Schmella. Pellant would then be sacked on a pass play by senior LB Kurt Mangum for a six yard loss. With 12 yards needed for the first down, their next play only produced nine. Pellant, versatile as he is, came on to make a 34 yard field goal. With a little over eight minutes left in the game, the Aztecs led by a score of 24-21.


After a touchback, the Wolves' next possession would not last long. Following a Jackson run for no gain, Lacivita was sacked by Giannonatti, losing his grip on the football. Senior Corona DL Austin Cartwright would recover inside the red zone at the 16 yard line.


Hamm would gain 11 yard on the next two running plays, setting up 1st and goal from the five. Another Hamm run for three yards put the ball at the two. From there, it was Chase Cartwright's turn to lose his handle on the pigskin when junior Wolf DL Terry Williams knocked it loose. Chandler had one last chance to either tie or win the game.


Starting from their own 15, Lacivita's first pass to West fell incomplete. Lamb then ran for two yards before being stopped by Corona's defense. Another incomplete pass from Lacivita to West then seemingly stopped the drive. Trella then trotted onto the field to punt, but a five yard penalty on the Aztecs made Chandler Head Coach Jim Ewan change his mind, which turned out to be the right call. Lacivita found Dohm open for a 12 yard gain, then he found Dunn 11 yards down the field for another first down. Chandler then imploded. Lacivita was stuffed on a running play for no gain. On 2nd down, an incomplete pass, coupled with a flag on the Wolves, gave them 2nd and 21 from their own 34. A screen to Jackson went nowhere, as senior Corona DL Wyatt Cahill made a great play five yards in the backfield. With 26 yards to go for the 1st down, Lacivita found Dunn open for 21 yards. Coach Ewan then called a timeout with 1:32 left in the game to discuss what to do on 4th down. They decided to repeat the previous formula, with Lacivita looking for Dunn; however, Benson knocked the ball away, giving the Aztecs the ball back and the game.


Three straight QB kneel downs hurt their rushing average, but Corona del Sol RB J.R. Hamm said they'll take it.


"We came out and played with our hearts. We practiced for all of their schemes for two weeks," Hamm said. "We thought they were going to come out with a lot more boost because Dion was gone, but we came out fired up."


Bottom Line


Without Dion Jordan in the lineup, Chandler was missing a guy who could convert many third downs with his ability to catch the ball. Someone besides their other key players needs to step up and fill the void, especially with upcoming region games against Mesquite, at Gilbert, and at Hamilton.


Corona del Sol improved their record to 5-2 with the comeback win. If Chase Cartwright, who played great, can continue to mature quickly, the Aztecs could make some noise in the playoffs. Their guys might not have the most talent, but they sure do play hard.


Game Balls


Despite missing Jordan, senior QB Payton Lacivita was able to spread the ball around to many of his weapons. He kept the Wolves' chances alive for the most part on the night.


Even though he had a three yard punt in the first half, senior WR/DB Eric Benson came up huge when it mattered most - in the 4th quarter. He gets the nod over senior RB J.R. Hamm, whose tough running kept the ball moving all night for Corona del Sol


Another game ball goes to Corona Principal Susan Edwards and the fans who attended the game. Edwards presented Chandler with a $1,000 check during halftime to be given to Dion Jordan's family.

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