When senior quarterback Chase Walden underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ligament at the end of July, Snowflake football coach Ron Tenney wasn’t counting on having his top player at all this season.
Walden returned Sept. 21 and hasn’t looked back since.
Last week, the 6-foot, 175-pounder ran for 160 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and passed for 236 yards and three more scores in a 37-17 victory against a tough Cottonwood Mingus defense.
“It was major surgery,” Tenney said. “He’s got a stepuncle who does physical therapy. They did some good things getting him back. He worked really hard to get back on the field.”
Walden, who also plays linebacker, gives Snowflake (7-2) hope of avenging losses to top-ranked Lakeside Blue Ridge (10-0) and No. 2 Show Low (8-1) in the Division IV playoffs. In the 50-0 loss to Blue Ridge the third game of the season, Walden was still out, and his replacement, Ty Reidhead, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the first quarter, thrusting running back Dallin Merrell into the quarterback role without practice.
Walden also wasn’t ready to return for the one-point Show Low loss the following week. He has been playing since, starting with the St. Johns game, Tenney said.
“I don’t think he’s back 100 percent, but each week he gets better,” Tenney said. “Having Chase there, he’s a dual threat. He can run it and throw it. Teams have to respect that. The good thing is other players are stepping up.”
Chandler Seton Catholic coach Rex Bowser will have a decision to make next week when the Division IV playoffs begin. Does he keep 6-4, 210-pound senior David Gesicki at quarterback? Or does he give the job back to senior Ryan Bresnahan?
Last year, Bresnahan led Seton to a 12-1, state semifinal season, passing for 3,291 yards and 51 touchdowns with four interceptions. He started out this season 36 of 59 for 597 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions, before suffering a broken bone in his throwing hand against Tempe Prep.
Gesicki has been remarkable in place of Bresnahan, passing for 1,297 yards and 20 touchdowns with one interception, completing 73 percent of his passes. He is 5-0 as the starter. This week, Bresnahan has returned to throwing and will play Friday night in the regular-season finale against Phoenix Bourgade Catholic, Bowser said.
“David has just done a spectacular job for us,” Bowser said. “He’s settled right in. He has great poise. He’s a very intelligent kid, reads defenses well.
“This is kind of new territory here for us.”
Since August, Tucson Salpointe Catholic (9-1) has played only two teams with winning records — Marana Mountain View (6-3) and Nogales (7-2) — and beat four others with a combined 8-28 record. Meanwhile, Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge (9-0), led by quarterback Tyler Williams and linebacker/receiver Jake Matthews, jumped in the rankings over Salpointe to No.1 with back-to-back wins over 8-1 Tempe Marcos de Niza and 8-1 Peoria Centennial.
Salpointe, led by junior athlete Cameron Denson and senior running back Johnny Pena, will see how prepared it is for Ironwood Ridge in Friday’s big Division II matchup that could shake up the top-four seeds.
“They sure have taken advantage of their opponents’ turnovers,” Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said of Ironwood Ridge.