By Zach Alvira, GSN Sports Editor
This just in: It’s Chandler, not Highland, in the 6A high school football state-championship game Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
This is of particular interest to Perry, because the Pumas are the opposition.
Perry knocked off second-ranked Pinnacle, 45-14, in one 6A semifinal last Friday, avenging a 59-33 loss to the Pioneers in the season-opener in August.
When the Pumas began celebrating their victory, they were under the impression they were playing Perry coach Preston Jones’ former team, Highland, for the championship.
Instead, the other 6A semifinal went into overtime, where Chandler prevailed over Highland with a successful two-point conversion.
So now the storyline becomes the rematch. Chandler beat Perry in the 6A championship game last season, and then beat the Pumas again during this regular season.
“It feels great,” Perry quarterback Chubba Purdy said of the Chandler rematch. “Last year we lost by seven. We’ve been thinking about this the entire year. It’s great to be able to go back again.”
The memory of that loss to Chandler has haunted the Perry players. They wanted a chance at redemption against their school-district rival. And now they’ve got it.
This time, the Pumas believe that they are poised to hoist the gold ball and put an end to Chandler’s two-year reign at the top.
“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Jones said. “So many people wrote us off last year as the Brock Purdy show. Brock is an unbelievable kid and an unbelievable athlete. He did a lot for us but we have a really special team.
“I feel like we have a really good program and an unbelievable school.”
On Sept. 28, Chandler cruised to a 45-34 victory over the Pumas.
Over the past two months, Perry has improved.
The Pumas’ defense held Basha to 21 points in a first-round playoff victory a week after a 54-41 shootout between the two that Perry won.
Perry posted another dominating performance in its upset of third-seeded Desert Vista, 49-20, in the second round
Its most impressive showing came in the rout of second-seeded Pinnacle.
“We are just so proud of these boys because there are a lot of nonbelievers outside of our room,” Jones said. “Our defense takes a lot of heat but they are really good. They’ve played lights out these last three or four weeks.
“The scoreboard may not always show it but they really are.”
While its defense has turned the corner at the right time, Perry’s offense continues to evolve. Led by Purdy’s 3,236 passing yards and 35 touchdowns, Perry averages more than 48 points a game.
It’s not just the Chubba Purdy show. Receiver Colby Dickie and running back Jalen Young are prime-time players, too.
Dickie, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior, and a three-year starter, has 72 catches for 1,034 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Colby has to be one of the best receivers in the state,” Jones said. “I know he is not big enough or fast enough for these college programs but he is an unbelievable high school football player. Every Saturday you see players like Colby on the field that weren’t recruited but are making plays.
“Hopefully he is able to do the same.”
Like Dickie, Young has been a workhorse. The senior has rushed for 1,253 yards and nine touchdowns.
Perry has taken out the No. 3 and No. 2 seeds in the playoffs. They all are seeking redemption against Chandler to add No. 1 to their conquests.
“To get back there again feels really good,” Young said. “We are going to practice hard but we are going to do the same thing we have always been doing, and that’s playing Perry ball.”
Tribune contributing writer Joel Viss contributed to this report.