No. 21 Chandler (Ariz.) High School’s reign at the top was in peril. After committing six turnovers in the semifinals game against Liberty (Peoria, Ariz.), the Wolves trailed by eight points with 24 seconds to play in the game and received the ball at the 30 yard line.
They haven’t won five straight championships for nothing. Three-star quarterback Blaine Hipa completed a 26-yard pass to Iowa State commit Quaron Adams, and then Anyale Velazquez scored a touchdown with two seconds remaining on the clock. On the 2-point conversion, Hipa faked a pitch and then kept it himself to tie the game at 21.
Cronkite News reporter Evan Oscherwitz tweeted a video of the touchdown pass:
Unbelievable. Hipa to Velazquez for a seven yard TD with two seconds left in the game. Chandler can tie the game with a two-point conversion. 21-19 Liberty with 2.7 to go. @Sports360AZ pic.twitter.com/BQLOV8M7sh
— Evan Oscherwitz (@EvanOscherwitz) December 5, 2021
In overtime, Princeton commit Nason Coleman scored a game-winning touchdown to give Chandler the 27-21 victory.
It took overcoming six turnovers and a 21-7 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Wolves have reached their sixth consecutive title game. They will play against Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), who took down No. 10 Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) on Saturday night.
Saguaro is a historically dominant football school in its own right, winning the 5A division six times in a row from 2013-18. When the Open Division playoffs were created in 2019, the Sabercats had their first chance to play for the championship against 6A teams like Chandler.
So far this season, they have done what they needed to prove they’re the best in the state regardless of division, even taking down the only team to beat Chandler so far this year. While the Wolves won’t be able to directly avenge that loss to Hamilton, they’ll have a chance to take down Saguaro for another title. The Sabercats will look to be the second team to beat Chandler this season.
But as the Wolves have shown multiple times during their years of dominance, no lead is completely safe. Even 24 seconds is too many for this group.