It's been some time since Chandler High has opened its season against a juggernaut — eight years to be exact. That will be the case Thursday when Division II runner-up from last year Centennial invades Austin Field for each team's first game of 2013. Game time is 7 p.m.
Season openers the last decade for Chandler have come against Ironwood, Horizon, Skyline and Kofa. Only Horizon gave Chandler a game in that span — beating the Wolves in 2005 by a field goal.
“We're a young team, some unknowns,” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said. “We're ready to see how we'll do. We have a tough schedule ahead. This (Centennial) is one of those games.”
Aguano breaks in junior Bryce Perkins at quarterback, a player with high expectations. Perkins has a veteran group of receivers, particularly if senior Dionte Sykes is cleared to play Thursday night. Mitch McCulley enjoyed a solid season last year and Daniel Mahan is set to be an intergral part of the passing game.
Aguano has senior Zech Culbreath and promising sophomore Chase Lucas behind Perkins to anchor the running game. Aguano is confident the Wolves will be able to two-platoon effectively, a plus with muggy, hot conditions early in the year.
Centennial also welcomes a young squad after losing its top quarterback, rusher and receiver to graduation. Matt Rodriguez and Dedrick Young combined for 1,000 yards rushing last year behind gratuated standout Jalen Ortiz. The Coyotes figure to be power ground-oriented and once again a D-II contender. Jordan Suydam is the new quarterback, but he and the rest of the backfield have an experienced line in front of them. That's Centennial's strength as 2013 begins.
Other games on the Thursday (Aug. 29) slate involving teams from the East Valley and southern Arizona:
Sahuaro at Tucson and Walden Grove at Sahuarita are part of the four-game, two-day Coaches for Charity Classic. It's the first game of the year for Sahuaro, Tucson High and Walden Grove. Sahuarita opened its season last week with a 21-0 loss at Blue Ridge. The other games in the Coaches for Charity Classic are set for Friday (Aug. 30) — Sabino (0-0) at Salpointe (1-0) and Ironwood Ridge (1-0) at Cienega (0-0). Longtime southern Arizona coach Jeff Scurran returns to the prep coaching ranks taking over at Catalina Foothills. Catalina Foothills opens its season Thursday at Desert View. Also Marana Mountain View visits Marana.
In the East Valley, Arizona Charter Academy (0-0) visits Gilbert Chrisitian (1-0). Gilbert Christian opened successfully last week with a 40-20 triumph over Glendale Prep.