Chandler makes a statement in San Diego - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler makes a statement in San Diego

September 14th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler makes a statement in San Diego
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

Chandler’s football team heard the outside noise all off-season after their loss to Saguaro in last year’s Open Division State Championship.

They were told they would never be the same. They were told they lost too much talent. They were told they were no longer top dog in the state, let alone the Chandler district.

So, the Wolves responded with a 63-7 trouncing over Cathedral Catholic, one of southern California’s top high school football programs, in the Honor Bowl to open the season.

“This was a business trip for us,” Chandler coach Rick Garretson said. “We were coming with a specific goal.”

That goal: To prove they’re still the same Chandler. Though this version may be better.

The Wolves scored on all but two of their offensive drives. The first drive of the game ended in a punt. Toward the middle of the first half, junior quarterback Dylan Raiola was intercepted. It was one of three total passes he didn’t complete on the night in a dominant outing for the five-star transfer from Texas.

Putting on the Chandler uniform was something he had been looking forward to since January. He has quickly become a leader and has started to gel with his wideouts, most of which are juniors.

Raiola went 15-of-18 for 253 yards and three touchdowns against one of southern California’s best teams. He also rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter.

An Ohio State commit, Raiola entered the season as the consensus top prospect in the nation for the 2024 class. And he proved it Friday night to the tune of an “overrated” chant from the Cathedral Catholic student section.

His night ended after three quarters, when Chandler’s lead was 49-7 and he had connected with junior tight end Kaden Anderson twice and junior running back Destin Johnson on a 78-yard pass he made look effortless while on the run.

“I just try to train at such a high level that when I come out here, I try to make it look easy,” Raiola said. “It’s really just my guys getting open, getting off routes, getting off guys. I’m just super proud of them and what they did.”

Chandler’s defense was just as dominant, holding Cathedral Catholic to just seven points. Those came after multiple penalties on the Wolves on one of the Dons’ drives.

Before the game, Chandler stood silent on the sideline as the Honor Bowl hosts walked the crowd through a ceremony that built a battlefield cross. The cross, which consists of an assault rifle, military helmet, combat boots and dog tags assembled in a specific way, honors soldiers lost in battle.

The Honor Group, which puts on the Honor Bowl, raises awareness for the needs of military veterans and their families. In year’s past, service dogs were gifted to veterans at the game. They did the same this year and donated proceeds from merchandise sales to veterans and their families.

Chandler defensive tackle A’Mauri Washington, who announced his commitment to Oregon shortly after his team’s win, said it was an honor to be a part of a showcase that honors soldiers.

“It’s sad, people come out and fight for our country and that’s the sacrifice they make,” Washington said of the building of the battlefield cross. “I always show love to them. They make that sacrifice for us.”

The game in San Diego was also a homecoming for Garretson, who played for San Diego State from 1974-78. He attended the Aztecs’ game on Saturday at their new stadium, Snapdragon Stadium, where they opened the season against the University of Arizona.

Garretson’s son, Darrell, is an assistant coach for the Wildcats. He was able to share his team’s win with his family Friday before watching Darrell help coach Arizona to a win over his college team.

“That was a big deal for a bunch of my friends and old teammates. They were here tonight,” Garretson said. “Not too bad. Show off my kids in front of my folks.”

Chandler’s win in San Diego, along with Red Mountain earlier in the day, was the type of showing Arizona needed on a national level.

It set the stage for other games that followed against out-of-state opponents. Overall, the state went 9-4 against teams not from Arizona.

Chandler and Red Mountain’s wins were among the biggest for East Valley teams along with Queen Creek over San Joaquin Memorial, Campo Verde over Chavez and Williams Field over El Cajon, which all took place in Moorpark, Calif.

Basha, another CUSD team, capped off an impressive weekend with a win over Los Alamitos Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Bears shut down five-star USC commit Malachi Nelson in the second half, holding the Griffins to just one score.

It was a good showing for Arizona, and Chandler’s win came during a top-notch event honoring veterans.

“We were honored to be in the Honor Bowl,” Garretson said. “It’s everything we thought it would be and we are glad things worked out the way they did for us.”