The first week is in the books. It was great to finally get back to live game action with players no doubt looking forward to hitting someone other than a teammate. The opening week pitted some very strong teams against each other and the result was a number of hard fought, close games. Here’s a recap of some of the best that week 1 had to offer.
Hamilton vs. Mountain Pointe
This game was a rematch of the 5A-I semifinal from last year in which Hamilton cruised to victory on their way to the state title. Hamilton entered on the cusp of a little history as well, having tied the 5A (which is now Division I) record for consecutive wins at 40. Mountain Pointe appeared ready to thwart the record, starting with strong, time consuming possessions and eventually grabbing an early 7-3 lead. However, the Hamilton Huskies were resilient defensively and wide receiver Kendyl Taylor, the only returning offensive starter, came up with big plays to recapture the lead and eventually clinch a 17-7 victory. Taylor caught the go ahead touchdown and finished the night with 102 yards receiving. With 41 straight victories, Hamilton now owns the division record and appears to be the favorite again this season.
Chaparral vs. Salpointe
Perhaps no team in Arizona was as dominant as Scottsdale Chaparral last year. The Firebirds finished as undefeated state champs and routinely dismantled teams by huge margins. This year, key returning stars Connor Brewer and Davonte’ Neal are among the best prospects in the state. Unfortunately, the season started on a sour note when Chaparral was soundly beaten by Nevada’s nationally ranked Bishop Gorman. Then they had to travel down to Tucson to take on Salpointe Catholic, a top ten team in Division II. Salpointe came out and controlled the game in the first half and after an interception returned for a touchdown by Cameron Denson early in the third quarter, thing looked bleak for Chaparral. Trailing 21-9, Davonte’ Neal donned his superman cape and on the next play returned the kickoff for a score to quell all of Salpointe’s momentum. He later scored on a 30 yard reception to grab the lead and Chaparral held on to eke out the win, 22-21. It was an impressive outing by Salpointe, but this Chaparral team may not be the powerhouse it was last season. This division may be a lot more open than it appeared before the actual games began.
Apollo vs. Peoria
These teams should both be contenders in their respective divisions at the end of the year. Apollo (Div. II) is led by quarterback Jon Brown, who can both run and throw effectively. He was extremely effective on this night, running strong all game and throwing 2 touchdowns to lead Apollo to a 24-13 win. A strength for Peoria (Div. III) is the defensive backfield, but Apollo was able to move the ball through the air throughout the contest. The game should provide a teaching opportunity for Peoria, and a loss to a Division II top ten team will not hurt them in the long run. Brown is a little under the radar as a quarterback, but he’s a player to watch and performances like this one will only instill more confidence in his ability.