Open division semifinals kick off for Arizona high school football
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Four teams. Four very different paths to the open division semifinals. Liberty, Saguaro, Chandler, and Basha are all loaded with talent. And all are full of confidence that they can bring home some hardware next weekend.
In the all-Chandler matchup, the two-seed Basha Bears take on the three-seed Chandler Wolves. The Wolves have the top 2024 recruit in the entire country in quarterback Dylan Raiola, who has already committed to play college football at Ohio State. They’ve also got the championship pedigree, winning five state titles in the last six years. “That’s why the kids come here,” Chandler head coach Rick Garretson said. “You know the expectation is to win the whole thing. We’re where we’re supposed to be on Saturday night.”
“It’s a band and brotherhood right? Even though they’re competing teams, the boys are all friends. They played youth together, sports together, multi-sports. So even though there’s some fierce competition, at the end of the game they’re going to look at each other and say we made it this far,” said Chandler parent Paige Wells.
But Chandler lost to Basha back in October. And this Bears team just cleared a major hurdle in winning their first playoff game since 2014. “Everybody says it’s hard to beat a team the second time, right?” Basha senior offensive lineman James Durand asked. “They got that in the back of their minds. They think it was a fluke.”
“There’s a lot of respect and pride for both sides of the house,” said Jeff Bleier, Basha Gridiron Club Vice President.
In the other open semifinal matchup, Saguaro is ready to prove winning a state title last year is now the norm and not the exception. “It’s one of those things that just motivates you,” Saguaro quarterback Devon Dampier said. “You don’t want to just give away the trophy. That’s not how it works around here. So it makes us work a lot harder.”
The Sabercats have won six straight. Their last loss? To top-seeded and undefeated Liberty, the 14th-ranked team in the entire country, according to MaxPreps. “We kind of joke around that the regular season flew by because our minds were set on this point in our season right here,” Liberty senior offensive lineman Layton Vining said. “And we’re finally here again.”
Liberty vs. Saguaro kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mountain Ridge High School. Chandler vs. Basha also kicks off at 6 p.m. at Dobson High School.
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