Arizona high school 6A football semifinals: Chaparral, Highland will face off in championship rematch
Every time Gilbert Williams Field scored in the second half Friday night, it just fired up the quarterback on the other sideline.
Scottsdale Chaparral senior quarterback Brayten Silbor didn't want his last game to end on the Firebirds' home field.
"I was thinking the whole time, 'We're not losing this game,' " he said.
Silbor, showing why his coach calls him one of the best high school quarterbacks in the nation, kept answering with clutch throws, driving the Firebirds to four second-half touchdowns.
In the end, Grady Hickey moved from No. 1 wide receiver and into the back field and scored on a 3-yard run with 1:01 left to give Chaparral a thrilling 35-28 6A semifinal football victory.
But it wasn't quite over, not with C.J. Tiller at quarterback and his dynamic receivers and backs capable of scoring quickly.
Luke Franz ended Williams Fields' last threat, intercepting Tiller's pass at the Chaparral 21. Silbor took a knee and Chaparral students stormed the field, yelling, "We're going back to the chip."
"It doesn't even feel real," Franz said. "We're just sitting deep. We knew they were going to throw it. Kasper, he's the real deal.'' Franz was referring to Williams Field receiver Kyler Kasper, who had made big plays earlier in the game.
No. 2 seed Chaparral will try to claim its second consecutive championship on Dec. 11 at noon, at Sun Devil Stadium against the team it beat for the title last year, top-seed Gilbert Highland, which defeated Mesa Red Mountain in the other semifinal.
"It was a great team effort," said Silbor, who three three touchdown passes, and shrugged off the three first-half interceptions that coach Brent Barnes said weren't his fault. "That first half was really rocky on the offensive side.
"We got into the locker room at halftime, creating plays, making adjustments. They're a great team. We just came out and executed."
Chaparral (9-4) got down 14-7 early in the third quarter after Tiller hit 6-foot-6 junior wide receiver Kyler Kasper with a 26-yard play, then, rolling to his right, turned back and threw to his left to hit Kasper in the end zone from 10 yards out.
It was one of the many spectacular plays that Tiller and his receivers turned in. In the final minute of the first half, eluding 5-star defensive end Anthony Lucas, Tiller found Lasjawn Hunter between three defenders in the end zone for a 17-yard score that tied the game at 7.
After Williams Field took its first lead in the second half, Silbor quickly move the Firebirds 65 yards on four plays, hitting Gavin Higley with a 17-yard score.
After a 50-yard completion between Tiller and Hunter, Joshua Dye capped a drive with a 1-yard run to give Williams Field a 21-14 lead.
Silbor answered again, this time hitting tight end Lukas Garvey deep for a 52-yard scoring pass to tied it again.
After Dye took a pitch and scored from 5 yards out to cap a Williams Field scoring drive with 9:38 to play for a 28-21 lead, Silbor hit Higley on successive 30-yard plays, found Hickey for an 8-yard gain, before Jamarei Ashby-Phan, having one of his best games, slithered through a hole for a 3-yard touchdwn with 7:16 left.
Williams Field's only punt of the half led to a Chaparral scoring drive that took more than five minutes off the clock.
Silbor passed only twice, completing both, in an 11-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by Hickey's TD run for the 35-28 lead late.
Hickey ran five times for 27 yards in the drive. He carried the ball the four of the last five plays, gaining 7, 8, 6 and 3 yards for the winning score.
"In the fourth quarter, I usually make plays," Hickey said. "I did it against Saguaro.
"Our heads were never down. We always knew we were going to win."
Barnes said that none of the three picks Silbor threw in the first half were remotely close to his fault. Receivers didn't run the right route, he said. He knew what his team was capable of in the second half with Silbor directing the offense.
"I think he's one of the best quarterbacks in the nation," Barnes said. "I wouldn't trade him for a single person in the world. Just keep dong what he does. At some point he was going to give us what we needed."
Strong safety C.J. Eastwood had no doubt in his team coming back every time Wlliams Field scored.
"It's not how we start, but how we finish," he said. "We got it done at the end of the day."
Highland defeats Red Mountain
By Ben Stapley
Top seeded Gilbert Highland High School will get another shot at a 6A state championship.
Thanks to a dominant first half, the Hawks cruised to a 28-14 semifinal victory over Mesa Red Mountain Friday night at Highland High.
Highland will square off against Chaparral next Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in a repeat title matchup from last year. Highland fell to Chaparral 24-14 in the 2020 title game.
Highland (10-3) appears to be playing its best football of the season. Its three losses came to the highest ranked 6A teams in succession, and all were competitive.
Friday’s first half was lopsided from outset, as the Hawks scored on four of their first five possessions.
Highland quarterback Gage Dayley torched Red Mountain in the first half, throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns, both to Hunter Stewart. The first covered 73 yards in which Stewart juked several Red Mountain defenders after the catch.
Fullback Carson Mellenaux did most of the damage on the ground. The junior scored Highland’s other two touchdowns on runs of eight and 16 yards.
Highland’s defense was equally as dominant in the first half. Red Mountain’s offense didn’t get close to the red zone until the second half when the deficit was already 28 points.
Juniors Ja’Kobi Lane and Lenox Lawson scored for Red Mountain
“Our schedule and that tough stretch of games made us better. Next week will be another tough one but we’ll be ready,'' Highland fullback/linebacker Chance Cauthen said.
Red Mountain coach Mike Peterson was pround of his squad's effort.
“Highland’s a great team. But I gotta say I’m proud of how we fought back in the second half,'' he said.
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