Chaparral falls in second round of playoffs

A team shot of the 2014 Chaparral High football team. (Submitted photo)

A team shot of the 2014 Chaparral High football team. (Submitted photo)

Turnovers and an inability to score consistently ended up being the problems that ended the 2015 season of the Chaparral High School football team on Friday, Nov. 13.

Scottsdale’s Firebirds (9-3) fell to Desert Ridge High School (10-2) by a score of 33-21 in the quarterfinals of the Arizona Interscholastic Association State Football Championships.

The Firebirds lost four fumbles in the game, three coming in the first half. This led to a 20-7 deficit at half time.

“Anytime you lose the game, you lose the turnover margin, especially against a quality opponent like Desert Ridge or any good team,” Chaparral head coach Conrad Hamilton said in a Nov. 16 phone interview. “If you look at the outcome of those games (where you lose the turnover margin), you’re probably going to come up on the losing end of the games.”

Hamilton says the fumbles were uncharacteristic, as he can only remember two lost fumbles in the first 11 games combined.

The fumbles were one reason the Firebirds could not slow the Jaguars’ progress. The Wing-T offense of Desert Ridge also presented problems, as it forced the Firebirds to face an offense they weren’t used to facing.

“We knew that we playing a team that was running an offense that we hadn’t necessarily seen on a consistent basis,” Coach Hamilton said. “We’re used to playing spread teams and pro-style teams so it was a little bit different in preparation.”

Coach Hamilton says the fact that Chaparral could not keep up on the score board ended up being the determining factor in the loss.

“I thought we had enough stops to give ourselves a chance to win, but at the end of the day we didn’t score enough,” he said. “They did a good job and they had a good offensive game plan. So you’ve got to give those guys credit, they did a good job.”

The Firebirds opened up the second half with a 57-yard touchdown pass to pull within six points of the Jaguars, but Desert Ridge capitalized on a fumble recovery and scored to take a 27-14 lead going into the fourth quarter.

With about four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Desert Ridge sealed the deal with a 47-yard touchdown run. Chaparral added a touchdown at the end of the game, but ultimately fell 33-21.

Coach Hamilton says he knew the game would be a grind and Desert Ridge earned their spot in the semifinals.

“At the end of the day, Desert Ridge outplayed us. We didn’t deserve to move on after our performance,” he said. “We didn’t give up; we played hard just like we have all year long. It just wasn’t our night. They deserved to move on and we didn’t.”

Senior class

Coach Hamilton says he met with the team on Monday morning to wrap up the season. He says it was tough to see some of the faces in the room knowing they would not be returning to play next year. The Firebirds are losing some productive seniors to graduation.

“We had a lot of guys we’re going to miss,” he said. “They’ve been with me for four years—two years as the head coach, two years as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. That’s what this whole deal is about. Football’s about relationships and building those relationships with the community, your staff and most importantly, your student athletes.”

Senior wide receiver Ryan Bright was one of junior quarterback Grayson Barry’s favorite targets, catching 51 passes for 764 yards and five touchdowns through the first 11 games of the year, according to MaxPreps.com.

“Offensively, Ryan Bright was one of our top performers,” Coach Hamilton said. “He didn’t play in (the Desert Ridge) game. He had a concussion so he was out. One of our top receivers and deep threats, a guy that Grayson’s been counting on all year didn’t play in the game. “

Senior tight end Christian Skeptaris caught 29 passes for 284 yards in the first 11 games and also stepped up when the defense suffered some injuries.

“Christian Skeptaris has been our all-section tight end the last couple years. He had to start on defense the last two games at linebacker for us,” Coach Hamilton said. “He was really doing a great job and competing as always.”

Senior defensive end Brandon Jamison led the team in tackles for loss (15.0) and was second on the team in total tackles (81) according to MaxPreps.com.

“Brandon Jamison is an incredible young man and a great student,” Coach Hamilton said. “He’s a great football player, one of the top defensive ends in the state.”

One of the biggest holes the Firebirds will need to fill next year is in their backfield. While Barry will return at quarterback, senior running backs Spencer Greenberg and Kurt Shugart, who combined for 1,668 yards and 23 touchdowns through the first 11 games of 2015, will not return.

Shugart will also leave a void on defense, where he had 68 total tackles and six interceptions.

“Kurt played well,” Coach Hamilton said. “He was banged up, it was a long season and he’s a two-way guy. He gave us his all, he’s just a phenomenal player.”

The exit meeting may have been difficult for Coach Hamilton, but he says regardless of the outcome of the season, he says the educational goal of the game remains the same.

“It’s tough. I hate the end of the season, whether we’re winning it all or getting bounced early. It’s always a tough meeting to have,” he said. “We grind them all the time about wanting them to win and be the best they can be on the field, but really, we’re just teaching them those life lessons that will allow them to productive citizens in this world and good men.”

Chaparral High School is located 6935 E. Gold Dust Ave. in Scottsdale.

Scottsdale Independent Sports Correspondent Justin Maskulinski can be contacted at jmaskulinski@newszap.com. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/Maskulinski.

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