Friday night’s matchup between Chandler and Phoenix Desert Vista marked the last game in the regular season, but Desert Vista had already adopted a postseason mentality and it showed.
“We came in like it was playoffs so we came ready,” senior linebacker Aaron Green said.
The do-or-die approach paid off as Desert Vista cruised to a 23-6 victory over Chandler.
“We needed to win to get some good momentum going into playoffs so were really hoping to come out strong and we did,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said.
The victory was a mixture of can-do offense led Jarek Hilgers and a defense that refuse to yield, holding a normally high-scoring offense in Chandler to just six points.
“The defense played phenomenal tonight,” Hinds said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”
Green was spearheading the defensive effort. He finished the night with a couple of key sacks, a critical stop on fourth down late in the fourth quarter and a blocked punt which resulted in a safety.
“We just knew them,” he said of his ability to make those crucial reads. “We knew what we were going to do. We came into this game ready.”
Desert Vista jumped to a 14-0 lead at halftime, scoring first on a 15-yard run by Hilgers halfway through the first quarter and again on a 7-yard run by Zach Gonzalez near the end of the second quarter.
A sloppy start in the second half for Chandler tacked another two points on the board when Green blocked a punt and forced a safety with 7:12 remaining in the third quarter. Desert Vista would put seven more on the board before Chandler finally had an answer, but the lead had swelled too big by then, and although Chandler would recover the onside kick after its late fourth-quarter touchdown, it would fail to capitalize on the extra opportunity.
Desert Vista, the Division I defending champion, finished the season at 8-2 and likely clinched a home game with the victory while Chandler drops to 7-3 and is expected to start their postseason journey on the road.
Green said a win in such a dominating fashion gives his team the confidence it needs.
“We’re so confident in our defense and our offense only has room to improve,” Green said. “So we feel like we can take off from here.”
Next stop: playoffs.