Is this the Wolves’ year?

Chandler High absolutely dominated all facets of the game in a 65-13 victory over Buena High in Sierra Vista on Friday night. Many were curious to see if Chandler’s win over Division II Centennial was a fluke. Chandler’s follow-up victory, combined with Centennial’s 32-17 win over Basha, seems to solidify the legitimacy of this year’s Wolves team.

Or does it?

The Chandler High football program may as well be the love child of the Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Cubs. The Wolves have an entrenched and loyal fan base in a blue-collar part of town who have adopted the moniker “School of Champions.” This credo may be true for track or wrestling, but football is 64 years removed from any championship status. The title drought is exacerbated by the fact that their rivals and neighbors to the south, Hamilton, have 7 championships in the first 14 years of the school’s existence.

Still, something is different about this team. They have the speed and athleticism they’ve always had, but this year the Wolves seemed to have added a level of maturity that could finally give them an opportunity to compete come playoff time.  Against Buena, they were only flagged three times- once for holding, once for offsides and once for a personal foul. Those familiar with previous incarnations of the Wolves’ football program wouldn’t be surprised if those three flags all came on the same drive- something that happened on occasion in 2012. Their newfound maturity was on display when Buena DB Jacob Valdez suffered a head injury and had to be immobilized during the 4th quarter of the Chandler route. Wolves players gathered together on the field to say prayers for the injured young man, and then invited the Buena football team to do join them in continuing a prayer while Valdez was loaded into an ambulance.

“Mature” and “disciplined” are new adjectives when it describing CHS on the gridiron, and it’s especially nice to see these descriptors haven’t replaced some of the ones we’re used to. They’re still fast- Danny Mahan, Elijah Sykes and Chase Lucas combine with Bryce Perkins to form one of the most elusive and versatile backfields of any Arizona high school. They’re still skilled- wideouts Mitch McCulley and Dionte Sykes are receivers who can single-handedly take a game over. Before they were pulled against Buena, they had combined for 8 catches and 3 TDs in less than a quarter and a half. The defense is still opportunistic- DL Jordan Hoyt and DB Wesley Sutton have each secured multiple turnovers on defense.

I know the Wolves have had plenty of promising seasons end in disappointment, but this year feels different. Perhaps it’s the schedule- Chandler’s first two opponents, Centennial and Buena, had a combined 20-5 record in 2012 (Chandler’s typical season starts with offensive explosions against opponents who are lucky to win 1-2 games). The schedule isn’t letting up either. Next Saturday the Wolves play St. John Bosco, the team Maxpreps ranks number one team in the country.

If Chandler can show St. John Bosco that they won’t beat themselves, there’s a good chance that win or lose, Chandler earns the respect of elite local teams like Mountain Pointe and Hamilton, who both visit Austin Field in the weeks following the Bosco game.

Check out more from Ralph Amsden on ctownrivals.com