After knocking off Division I boys soccer defending champion Phoenix Brophy in the semifinals, Chandler (17-1-3) clinched its first soccer state title with a 3-2 win over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (15-2-3) Saturday night.
Chandler head coach Sasha Hunter said that his championship group was a team four years in the making.
His team couldn’t have peaked at a more appropriate moment.
“This squad, we’re a family,” Hunter said. “These guys love each other, there’s no cliques. We’re together.”
A raucous group of students and supporters of both teams, armed with vuvuzelas and other assorted noisemakers, packed the bleachers of Gilbert’s Campo Verde High.
Both squads played at breakneck pace, as Chandler senior and Oregon State commit Don Tchilao and Sandra Day O’Connor junior forward Musa Morris each took the reigns of their respective offenses.
At the 33:34 mark, Chandler midfielder Frank Stein found himself in the middle of a chaotic frenzy of blocked shots in front of the net and in the perfect spot to tap in a deflected header to put Chandler up 1-0.
With 16:09 to go in the first half, Morris evened the game up on a shot that on first glance appeared to be safely in the hands of Chandler goalkeeper Cesar Castro, but his outstretched arms pulled the ball across the goal line.
Sandra Day O’Connor had an opportunity in the form of a free kick with 3:12 to go in the half, but forward Jackson Jellah knocked his shot above the crossbar.
The two teams went into halftime knotted at 1-1, and just six minutes into the second half Sandra Day O’Connor was awarded another free kick from 25 yards out.
A series of fluid passes followed, but the visitors were unable to capitalize on yet another scoring chance.
At the 31:04 mark, with Chandler on the attack, Morris bumped heads with Tchilao, and it appeared that the tension built up over the course of a physical and intense game would reach a boiling point.
Tchilao’s free kick was blocked, but less than a minute later, he regained possession of the ball, dribbled, and looked across the field for a passing lane. He looked left and found a wide open Carter Rumsey, who had snuck inside the box left of the goal and left his man.
“Coach put me on the left side, and he was right, the weak side was on,” Rumsey said. “I had some space, took my time, saw where the keeper was and put it in the back of the net.”
Rumsey extended his leg back and buried the ball past a diving Ian Burton in goal, giving Chandler a 2-1 lead from which it would never look back.
“Rumsey knows how to place the ball well,” Hunter said. “We told him to play low, and he bent it over the goalkeeper’s head.”
An insurance goal from Daniel Corona at 12:03 proved crucial when midfielder George Ekdahl scored one of his own for Sandra Day O’Connor to make it a 3-2 game.
“Mussa and Jackson are great players, nothing but the highest respect,” Rumsey said. “We knew that we had to contain them and give them space – if we dove in, that’s when the trouble would come.”
Photos: High school boys soccer state tournament 2015
Sandra Day O’Connor’s Musa Morris, left, is greeted by teammates after he scored against Chandler in their Division I boys soccer championship Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 in Gilbert, Ariz.