Laveen Cesar Chavez has a chance to complete the school’s first perfect regular season in football Friday night at home against Tempe Marcos de Niza.
It has not given up a rushing touchdown in nine games.
But it still has skeptics. Some are wondering whether to put Chavez (9-0) among the elite in Division II with Tucson Salpointe, Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge, Peoria Centennial, Marcos de Niza and 6-3 Scottsdale Chaparral, for that matter.
Chavez’s nine opponents have a combined 23-58 record. Only Millennium (6-3) and Betty Fairfax (6-3) have winning records among the nine.
But coach Jim Rattay, who can capture his 300th career win if Chavez goes 14-0 this season, believes in his players, and they believe anything is possible.
It can get the rest of the state to believe with a win against 8-1 Marcos de Niza and all of its fast, quick athletes, led by defensive back Priest Willis, running back Mauriece Lee, wide receiver Paul Elvira and quarterback Josh Eckley.
“Yeah, they’re at a different level, speed-wise, than most teams,” Rattay said about Marcos de Niza, which lost its only game this season to top-ranked and unbeaten Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge, which finishes Friday night against 9-1 Tucson Salpointe Catholic. “When you get a bunch of Pac-12-type players, they’re not being recruited for nothing.”
Camelback is the last Phoenix Union district school to win a state football championship with an unbeaten record. The 1974 Camelback team went 12-0-1 under Jesse Parker.
Rattay has won seven state championships, the first two in Ohio. But he has yet to win a championship at Cesar Chavez. He has survived an Arizona Interscholastic Association probation and top players leaving for other schools, including receiver/cornerback Davonte’ Neal, who led Chaparral to back-to-back state titles and is now returning punts at Notre Dame; and offensive lineman Kenny Lacy, who is a senior who this season committed to UCLA and is helping lead No. 1 seed Phoenix Mountain Pointe in Division I.
But this team is his most special with dedicated, blue-collar type athlete who sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
Quarterback Arturo Macias is completing 63 percent of his passes. Kevin Stone has run for more than 500 yards. Chasyi Bryant and Jaylyn Shans are big-play receivers. And junior safety Melvin Lewis has returned five interceptions for TDs and five punts for scores.
Now, it’s time to step up to the big stage, playing the best competition in the final week before the playoffs.
Chavez is fourth in the MaxPreps-powered playoff seedings. But it could jump to No. 2.
“It’s crazy how it comes down to this game,” Rattay said. “We know how huge and important seeding-wise this is. It makes this game that much more important.”
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