The lineage of recent Chandler High quarterbacks is a list as long as it is successful.
From Brett Hundley, to Darell Garretson, to Mason Moran, to Bryce Perkins, to Jacob Connover, and most recently, Mikey Keene. The common denominator from this group was a knack for playing their best on the biggest stages.
Friday night the curtain will rise for Wolves’ senior Blaine Hipa, who will step into the spotlight and attempt to keep CHS perfect against in-state opponents for the 46th-consecutive game as Chandler faces rival Hamilton, a team who has pushed them closer to defeat than any other the past two seasons.
Now the transfer from Hawaii will get to see first-hand what “The Battle for Arizona Avenue” is all about.
“I heard it was a big thing,” Hipa said to the “Zone Read” earlier this week. “A big rivalry, One of the bigger ones in the nation. Hamilton was build right down the road [from Chandler]. Hamilton won most of the games and then Chandler won most of them. It’s been a great rivalry.”
The 2021 version has even more hype and build up than normal as both teams come into the contest undefeated and ranked in the Top 15 nationally (Chandler 10th, Hamilton 15th according to the latest MaxPreps poll).
While Hipa understands what’s at stake, he’s not allowing himself to get caught up in all the hype.
“In my mind, I just try to prepare like it’s just another game,” he explained. “Obviously, this is the best team we’re going to play this year, as it is every year. But I really don’t try to add any other pressure. It just makes it worse on yourself. Don’t make it too big or bigger than it needs to be.”
— Shannon Liebrock (@ShannonLiebroc1) October 31, 2021
The Wolves have been tested recently in close wins over Casteel and Highland but Hipa doesn’t see it as a problem, but a big-picture solution heading into the post-season.
“A lot of people view that as a negative for us but I look at it as a positive,” he said. “It’s good that we’ve faced some adversity this year, instead of us just blowing teams out. I think it’s good for us. It will benefit us.”
The Chandler Wolves MVP on Offense is Blaine Hipa @BlaineHipa Blaine is a 2 time Winner this season and is averaging 4 TD/G and chasing @TDN_Perk @NFL @RamsNFL for the Season record!!! #AirRaid #FlightClub @GarretsonRick @HIT4ATHLETES pic.twitter.com/IxnJ0PkeEh
— Collin Bottrill (@TheBottrills) October 14, 2021
The smooth left-hander has adapted quite well both on and off the field in the southeast Valley. He said the desert heat hasn’t bothered him and he’s found a new home within the tight-knit Chandler football community.
Hipa has completed 155-228 (68%) for 2030 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s been intercepted eight times.
23 Up, 23 Down
Mark Tucker has seen it all in the Hamilton-Chandler rivalry and when we say all, we mean all.
The Hamilton offensive line coach has been around for every single one of arguably the state’s biggest high school football rivalries.
“Being able to be a part of this one from the beginning is huge,” Tucker said to Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat. “I try to explain to people, I know what this is all about…kids went to junior high together, played on the same Pop Warner football team. Families are intertwined. It adds to [the rivalry].”
Getting better isn’t warm fuzzy, feel good moments. It won’t ever b. It’s years of messy, dirty, ugly work. It’s a gritty, frustrating, nasty, hard process. It’s lots of failure/falling. It doesn’t care about ur feelings. You’re going to earn it or u won’t get it! @CoachJonBeck
— BIG TUCK (@swoll1) November 8, 2021
Hamilton had a fairly solid stranglehold on the rivalry until Shaun Aguano, now Arizona State’s running backs coach, took over the Chandler program in 2011 and turned the Wolves into a football dynasty.
“For years he sat back and watched what was going on,” Tucker said of Aguano who initially served as Chandler’s offensive coordinator under former head coach Jim Ewan. “When he had the opportunity to take over, he did the things that he needed to do to tweak that program.”
While many expect these two teams to meet again in the Open Division Championship Game on December 11th at Sun Devil Stadium, Tucker knows both teams will bring their best.
“You can’t hold anything back,” he said. “It’s going to probably play out that we’re going to see each other again this year. If you’re Chandler or Hamilton and you don’t have that mindset, you’re kicking yourself. We all know we’re on this course to see them again as long as everybody takes care of business on either side.”
For more on Hamilton-Chandler, click here.
For the Community
As I said earlier this week on AZ Audibles, there is no bigger community rivalry than the ‘Tukee Bowl and I applaud Mountain Pointe second-year head coach Eric Lauer and Desert Vista first-year head coach Ty Wisdom for giving MP-DV (both 4-5) that “big game” feel again after the two combined for just one win, an MP 35-7 blowout of the Thunder, in 2020.
Friday will mark a milestone for the two Ahwatukee high schools who sit less than four miles apart from one another west of Interstate 10.
Welcome to Ahwatukee Bowl Week! 25th Annual Game. The series is knotted up at 12-12. At Desert Vista this Friday!! 7pm #getthereEARLY @thunderfbfamily @TUHSD_News @MPHS_FBBoosters @MtPointe_TUHSD @DVHS_TUHSD @CoachElauer51 @Coach_Wiz3 pic.twitter.com/h5X39qlnt0
— Desert Vista Athletics (@DavidKlecka3) November 7, 2021
After hearing the stories, Wisdom will get to lead his much-improved Thunder for the first time this weekend when the Pride make the short trip down East Ranch Circle.
“I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for both programs,” Wisdom said to the “Zone Read.” “Having Vaughan’s son [Norris Vaughan was Mountain Pointe’s head coach from 2009-2017] on my staff at Horizon, I was able to hear about the rivalry and how much it means to both programs. I told the kids Saturday morning, this is why you play high school football, for rivalry games like this.”
— Zach Alvira (@ZachAlvira) November 10, 2021
“We’re looking forward to a great game with a great atmosphere Friday night.”
The Sweet Taste of Success
Take Care of the people who take care of you.
Roshaun Johnson, take a bow.
Final from the Kibbie Dome!
— Idaho Football (@VandalFootball) November 6, 2021
Ro and myself go back longer than the existence of this blog.
The former Desert Edge standout running back/linebacker who helped the Scorpions win a 4A State Championship in 2015 had quite the weekend in Moscow, etching his name in program history, despite not being a starter. Johnson entered last week fourth on the team in rushing.
Time has passed since he and I last spoke, but his humility and team-first approach hasn’t wavered during his career with the Vandals.
“It was crazy,” Johnson said to the “Zone Read” of his record-breaking performance in Idaho’s 42-24 blowout win over Southern Utah. “My entire [line] was blocking great the entire game and I can’t really take all the credit for the record because it was really a team effort. It does feel nice to have my name stamped in history until it’s broken again, though.”
Remember the part earlier in this column about taking care of the people who take care of you?
.@Roro_023 knows he needed a lot of help for his record-breaking performance yesterday.
He brought three-dozen donuts for the O-line for this afternoon’s meetings. pic.twitter.com/RaI0XPqrnf
— Idaho Football (@VandalFootball) November 8, 2021
“Always take care of the guys when they get me over 100 [yards],” he said. “If I get 100 on Saturday, they get donuts on Sunday.”
People helping people.
Congrats and well done, Ro. Everyone here in your home state is proud to call you one of ours.