Tucson High’s Justin Argraves, the only coach who faced both Salpointe and Chandler this season, mentioned last night that the matchup tomorrow night between the Lancers and Wolves fulfills the expectations of the newly-created Open Division playoffs.
“I like it. It’s fun. It’s entertaining,” Argraves said on the AllSportsTucson.com High School Sports Preview Show at Wings Over Broadway at Camino Seco and Broadway. “It’s fun seeing the best of the best go against each other. This weekend should be very interesting.
“The championship game, who ever makes it, is going to be one hell of a football game.”
No. 4 Salpointe (10-0) will play top-seeded Chandler (11-0) at Hamilton High School at Chandler at 6 p.m. tomorrow. No. 2 Saguaro (10-1) faces No. 7 Hamilton (9-2) in the other semifinal game at Coronado High School in Scottsdale at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Argraves is an interested spectator now after having to endure a 62-0 loss to Salpointe on Sept. 27 and a 49-0 defeat against Chandler on Oct. 25. Both of those games were played at Tucson High School’s Gridley Stadium.
Chandler is rated No. 17 nationally by MaxPreps while Salpointe’s ranking is No. 56. Argraves is one of the few coaches in the nation who, along with his staff, had to scheme and prepare for two teams that are in the top 100 in the nation.
This is what he had to say about certain elements of tomorrow’s matchup:
On Salpointe’s record-setting running back Bijan Robinson (2,116 yards rushing on 108 carries with 37 touchdowns) on same field with Chandler running back Dae Dae Hunter (1,465 yards rushing on 127 carries with 31 touchdowns):
“Both backs were really good … really good, probably two of the best I’ve seen in my 19 years of coaching,” said Argraves, who is 55-49 in 10 years as a head coach at Mountain View and Tucson after serving as an assistant at Santa Rita, Catalina Foothills and Goodyear Millenium. “Bijan’s growth over the last three years from an opposing coach’s perspective has just been tremendous (with) his size (6-foot, 205 pounds) and his ability to read defenses.
“More importantly, with the little interaction I’ve had with him after games, playing him, he’s just a very well-spoken young man, very respectful young man. Does everything the right way. Just a tremendous athlete on the field. He’s very difficult to game plan because he can do so many things, run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield. That makes it difficult on that end.”
“That kid … Chandler lives off the stretch zone, outside zone, Dae Dae can run that. His vision and ability to make a cutback in any gap is what makes him just very tremendous,” Argraves said. “Again, like Bijan, very strong, he can squat 500 pounds. The kid’s an animal. So you’re looking at not just the two top backs in the state, you’re looking at two of the top backs in the nation.”
On the challenge of facing a nationally ranked team like Chandler, which is coached for the first time this year by former offensive coordinator Rick Garretson after ASU hired former coach Shaun Aguano as its running backs coach:
“They’re 90 deep,” Argraves said. “They platoon. They’ve got guys that are (college) Division I guys across the board, on top of the being very well coached. It’s tough. There’s not a class that teaches you how to go against a team like that.”
On sophomore Treyson Bourguet taking over at quarterback midway through the season for Salpointe:
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a quarterback that has the football awareness and smarts just from the one game I saw him play (last week against Pinnacle),” Argraves said. “He makes things happen with this football vision, and the kid has a cannon of an arm, smart football player. That’s a great deal breaker going into the game on Saturday night for them.”
On Chandler’s talent-laden defense that includes Division I prospect Tate Romney at linebacker with Salpointe’s defense that includes prolific tackling linebacker Trent Strong. They will have to try to contain potent running backs:
“Chandler has a talented front seven with Tate Romney at linebacker. He’s a tremendous linebacker,” Argraves said. “At the same time, in our opinion with scouting, you look at Salpointe’s side, they got (Trent) Strong at linebacker. Two very similar kids who are very good (run-stoppers). It will be very interesting to see how they do against opposing running backs in Dae Dae and Bijan.”
On the intriguing matchup of Salpointe’s potent offense with Bourguet now at quarterback throwing to Lathan Ransom, and Robinson running the ball, going against Chandler’s defense that includes four Division I prospects in Romney (BYU), safety Gunner Maldonado (Northwestern), linebacker Malik Reed (Wisconsin) and defensive tackle Sitalingi Havea (BYU):
“You’ve got a very explosive offense with Salpointe and Coach (Dennis) Bene is one of the best play-callers there are, going against a defense like Chandler, whose stout across the board, everywhere you look they’ve got dudes,” Argraves said. “The thing that Chandler has is they’ve got depth across the board. When you look at them across the sidelines, they’ve got 80 guys on the sideline and they are platooning. They are able to keep legs fresh.
SCLancerNation – Rain during prime practice hours for the State Semi Final didn’t stop the Lancers tonight – they were able to practice indoors at the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sport Center pic.twitter.com/rwmHqfOuuD
“Salpointe’s numbers obviously aren’t as big as Chandler’s, but I’ll tell you what, from what I saw when we played them and to what I saw when I was at the game Friday night against Pinnacle, the big difference maker is Bourguet. He’s a pretty darn smart football player. He’s got the size and he’s got the ability. He’s only a sophomore. He didn’t look shell-shocked at all. That game did not faze him going against a 6A team like Pinnacle. That will be really interesting. Chandler up front, that’s a big front four on the line to go against. Obviously, with Tate Romney out there, he’s a stud at the linebacker spot. It’s going to be really interesting. It will be a chess match for sure.”
On Chandler’s backfield that includes junior quarterback Mikey Keene (154 of 207 passing with 2,435 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions) with four running backs with at least 468 yards:
“Their quarterback, he’s a solid quarterback. … Chandler’s backfield is tremendous… you’ve got a four-headed monster (at running back),” Argraves said. “A lot of speed, very disciplined. … they do a tremendous job. It’s very difficult to go against them.
“But again you mention some of these names we’ve talked about with Salpointe (on defense) …”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.