Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds liked what he saw and not just because his Thunder thoroughly dominated Chandler in the season finale at Austin Field.
It was the way the Thunder played with a bit of an edge in a 23-6 win to secure a first-round home game in next week’s Division I postseason.
“They played fantastic game, just awesome, and we had a mean streak come out tonight,” Hinds said. “Our kids played tough.”
The Thunder (8-2) coaching staff came up with a game plan to use five defensive backs and force the Wolves’ big-play passing game to change its nature.
Chandler (7-3) loves to throw, especially long to athletes like Dionte Sykes and Patrick Baldenegro, but against the Thunder quarterback Darell Garretson had to check down and throw everything underneath.
And when they did the Desert Vista defensive backs made the tackle.
“We took it as a challenge and we knew we were going to be counted on to win this game,” Desert Vista senior safety Nick Farina said. “We never let them get downfield and took their big plays out of it.”
Garretson came into the game having thrown for 2,486 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 15.2 yards per completion but against the Thunder, Garretson averaged only 4.3 yards per reception in the first half.
Overall, he was 20 of 40 for 150 yards as Mark Smith, Anthony Abbadessa, Miles Boyns, Austin Hicks and Farina and others locked down the Wolves’ receivers.
“They did a good job and had a good game plan,” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said. “They absolutely beat us on both sides of the ball so we have some work to get done. We never got into a rhythm and we struggled the whole game.”
If it wasn’t the defensive backs making plays then it was linebacker Aaron Green, who had two sacks, a blocked a punt for a safety and had a tackle for loss early in the third quarter on fourth down attempt by Chandler in the red zone, getting it done.
“They called a blitz and you could just tell where they were going with the ball and I flew from there,” Green said of the fourth-down tackle to stopped Chandler in the red zone when it was still 16-0. “Everyone was saying it was going to be a shoot out and whatever defense made the last stop was going to win. We kind of took offense to that and made a stop every time basically.”
Offensively, the Thunder went with the power game against the smaller but faster Chandler defense. The Wolves had the speed to slow down the fly sweep the Thunder flashed in recent weeks, but never had to go with it as Desert Vista ate up the clock and moved the chains with Cullen VanGosen as the lead blocker in the wishbone.
Jarek Hilgers (19 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD) and Zach Gonzalez (11 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD) used their bruising style to build a 14-0 lead on touchdown runs of 20 and 7 yards, respectively, in the first half.
After a Thunder punt placed the ball at the Chandler 3, the Wolves left the offensive unit on the field on fourth-down-6 from their own 11. Instead of getting a Garretson pooch punt off cleanly, Green blocked the punt that led to a safety for a 16-0 lead.
Thunder quarterback Matt Young found Jordan Rezac for a 20-yard touchdown with 10 minutes left in the game for a 23-0 lead to ice the game.
There is a chance these teams could meet in the first round as the Thunder could move from seven to five with the win and the Wolves might drop from 10 to 12.
It would be interesting as the game got a little heated in the fourth quarter – the Thunder were called for three personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conducts – but the two head coaches did a job of calming it down.
The brackets will be released on Saturday morning around noon.
“With the number of great teams in the state right now there are going to be some great first-round games and the second round will be everybody playing everybody,” Hinds said. “We will go into it with the mindset that we will have to beat some great teams to get back to the championship.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.
Desert Vista 23, Chandler 6
DV 7 7 2 7 – 23
C 0 0 0 6- 6
DV – Hilgers 15 run (Schwartz kick), 6:26
DV – Gonzalez 7 run (Schwartz kick). 3:23
DV – Green blocks punt out of end zone, 7:12
DV – Rezac 20 pass from Young (Schwartz kick), 10:01
C – Smith 3 run (run failed), 3:01
First downs 16 14
Rushing 37-203 28-89
Passing 9-17-0-109 20-40-0-150
Fumb/lost 2-0 1-0
Penalties 8-70 2-23
Desert Vista – Hilgers 19-116, Gonzalez 11-55. Young 5-33. VanGosen 1-1, Monaco 1-(-2).. Chandler – Evans 10-50, Smith 5-27, E. Sykes 1-12, Garretson 11-0, Baldennegro 1-0.
Desert Vista – Young 9-17-0-109. Chandler – Garretson 19-39-0-143.
Desert Vista – Abbadessa 3-22, VanGosen 2-23, Germinaro 2-27, Rezac 1-20, Hilgers 1-8. Chandler – Burton 6-50, McCulley 5-45, D. Sykes 2-13, Baldenegro 2-11, Smith 1-11, Woods 1-7, Evans 1-7, Guerra 1-7.
MISSED KICK – DV- Schwartz (36).