While a lot of the talk around the state has been the fact that the the city of Chandler going nuts because Hamilton and Chandler both being in the state championship game, they same environment is seen on the west side for the division II crown.
One of the best match-ups in Arizona over the last few seasons has been the matchup between Centennial and Liberty who both hail from the city of Peoria. The last two have seen hard fought battles that the more experienced of the two, Centennial, was able to make the plays necessary to win in the end.
In 2013, The Lions led by as many as three scores but were not able to slow the Coyote comeback led by then junior running back Dedrick Young with a 42-31 Centennial win. This season back on week six, Liberty held a fourth quarter lead of 14-10 but gave up a 30 yard touchdown from Isaac Steel to Daniel Smith with six minutes to go which proved to be the game winner.
The Lions have been achieving many firsts this season as newer school and program. They were the number one seed in the playoffs for the first time, they have reached the state title for the first time and continues to one-up itself with their level of success. But there are still two big firsts that the Lions hope to achieve and both can be accomplished for the first time on Saturday. A win over Centennial and a state championship.
“It’s great to be here,” said Liberty senior quarterback Tyler Wyatt. “We knew we had a good team and we knew we would go far we just didn’t know how far. This is always the goal at the end of the year and we accomplished it but we are not done yet.”
If anyone has been able to watch the steady improvement of the Liberty Lions, it is Centennial and their long time head coach Richard Taylor.
“I expect that they will probably have a couple new wrinkles that we haven’t seen before,” he mentioned. “They have really improved dramatically defensively. Offensively they have always been very good.”
“And that (Tyler) Wyatt,” Taylor added. “He reminds me a lot of Brett Hundley when he was at Chandler and they had him. If you rush him really hard, he runs. If you try and stay in your lanes, he passes. You have to pick your poison I guess.”
For Wyatt and the Lions, they are focused on what is needed to do to finally get over that Centennial hump for the first and most opportune time.
“We just need to be ourselves,” Wyatt stated. “We kind of just need to play our game. We can’t go out there scared or timid, play trying not to make a mistake or be too perfect. We just have to go out there and play and do our best and do what we do.”
To get the vibe around the City of Peoria this week leading up to the big game Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium, Coach Taylor puts it in perspective to what it means to the community.
“Everybody in Peoria is going to be for one team or the other and in the end, Peoria is going to win.”