The Thunder played two California schools and were undefeated at home en route to a 9-1 record, the best since Desert Vista won the state championship in 2011. Desert Vista can to play two home games should it advance in the playoffs, before a neutral-site semifinal game.
Junior running back Tyson Grubbs, the team’s leading rusher with 679 yards and eleven touchdowns, went out with an injury after five games. His younger brother, freshman Devon Grubbs, has played well in his stead, totaling 73 carries for 642 yards and nine touchdowns. Though a run-heavy offense behind a big, strong offensive line, junior quarterback Parker Navarro has taken advantage of play action and thrown for 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Desert Vista’s defensive strength is its line – or the “Dawg Pound” as the players call themselves – which consistently disrupts the timing of opposing quarterbacks and rushers. The Thunder have 30 sacks this year, and the defensive backs and linebackers have taken advantage of hurried throws with seven interceptions.
Senior Tyler Roberts said if the Thunder executes as well as it did against the Bulldogs to end the season, a 35-28 win, they will have success in the playoffs.
“That’s a playoff-caliber team in Queen Creek that we just beat, and we’re expecting to play teams that are just as good in the playoffs. If we can play the way we played tonight, maybe even a little better than we played tonight, we’re bound for state,” he said.
The Firebirds move into postseason play at 5-5, having lost four of their last five games against playoff-bound opponents.
Chaparral’s defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks a state-leading 33 times, with junior Jaxon Richards totaling 10.5. Braxen and Zien Tessler account for a majority of the Firebird tackles (103 and 102 respectively).
Junior star quarterback Jack Miller missed the final two games due to injury, and the offense did not click the same in the games without him. Backup Sam Triester has just 24 completions for 301 yards and two touchdowns as a replacement. Chaparral’s receivers, including junior Tommy Christakos (1,114 yards and 13 touchdowns) will have to carry the day in the passing game.