A year ago, it was Casey Lytle and the Chaparral offense powering the Firebirds past Cienega and into the state Class 4A, Division I semifinals. This time on Friday night, it was younger brother Charlie Lytle and the Chaparral defense that led the way in a 20-0 quarterfinal victory for the No. 5 Firebirds over No. 4 Millennium, the home team.
Lytle, a linebacker, intercepted a pass that led to the final Chaparral touchdown while safety Derek Oesterblad had two interceptions (one of them leading to the second Chaparral touchdown) as the Firebird defenders stopped Millennium cold on virtually every important play of the night.
Midway through the fourth quarter, when Millennium was threatening to pull within a touchdown, defensive lineman Chandler Frame bulled his way into the Tiger backfield on successive plays for a pair of sacks that pushed Millennium back to midfield and ended the threat.
Even Chaparral's first touchdown was set up by the defense which forced a fumble and recovered at its own 30. The Firebirds then executed their only sustained drive of substantial length that produced points, culminating in a touchdown with 47 seconds left in the first half on a 2-yard pass from Spencer Stone to Tyler Williams over the middle on a fourth-and-goal play. With the missed extra point, Chaparral led 6-0.
The second touchdown – and the one that gave Chaparral firm control – came with 5:39 left in the third quarter on a similar play. From 14 yards out, Stone found Williams open on a quick strike over the middle. That drive was set up by an Oesterblad interception at midfield.
Lytle made his interception with 4:27 to play to give Chaparral the ball on the Millennium 35. Stone snuck it in with 54 seconds left to play.
The Firebirds, now 10-2, face a semifinal match up against defending state champion and Desert Sky Region rival Saguaro, the No. 1 seed at 12-0, in two weeks on a neutral field. Saguaro, which won 27-14 over Paradise Valley (the third Desert Sky team in the playoffs, defeated Chaparral, 31-28, earlier this season in a game that was not decided until late in the fourth quarter. The Sabrecats jumped to a big lead in that game, but had difficulty with Chaparral's speed.