Chaparral High School football looks to dominate in 2015

Quarterback Grayson Barry at a recent passing league competition. (Submitted photo)

Quarterback Grayson Barry at a recent passing league competition. (Submitted photo)

Chaparral High School’s football team has a rich tradition. Since 1999, the Firebirds have won six state championships and recently had a three-peat between 2009 and 2011.

Chaparral is ready to maintain its program’s tradition in 2015 — but it’s going to be tougher as the Firebirds are moving up to Division I.

“We won’t make excuses because of the level we’re playing at,” Chaparral head coach Conrad Hamilton said in a June 22 phone interview. “We’ll put our hardhats on and be ready to work.”

Last season, in Division II, the Firebirds finished 9-4 after a 24-0 loss to eventual-champion Centennial High School (Peoria) in the state semifinal.

Chaparral senior running back/safety Kurt Shugart says the Firebirds are ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“We’re excited about moving up to D-I,” Shugart said in a June 24 phone interview. “We have more depth than we’ve ever had, which I think is going to help us a lot. We want to play all of the good teams so we’re super excited about that.”

Offensive Experience

Returning at quarterback for the Firebirds is junior Grayson Barry, who replaced now-graduated Sean Paul Brophy after Brophy was injured against Arcadia in the seventh game of the 2014 season.

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

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

Barry finished the season completing 58 of 108 passes for 697 yards and seven touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.com.

Barry says his unexpected playing time last season will help him moving forward.

“I’m definitely more mature now that I know what a varsity football season is like,” Barry said in a June 24 phone interview. “My receivers and I are more used to each other and more confident in each other now.”

Coach Hamilton says Barry will start for the Firebirds when they take on the Helix Highlanders in La Mesa, Calif. Saturday, Aug. 29.

“Grayson will be our starting quarterback in 2015,” he said. “I think the experience he had last year, as a sophomore, was monumental for our team and individually for him.”

The Firebirds have other key contributors returning on the offense in senior tight end Christian Skeptaris and junior wide receiver Gianni Thomas.

In 2014 Skeptaris had 36 receptions for 377 yards and five touchdowns. Thomas had 45 receptions for 709 yards and 10 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.com.

Barry says the experience at the skill positions will make his job a little easier. The big guys were not overlooked, however, and Barry says an experienced offensive line will also help him out.

“It definitely brings a lot of comfort. Our O-line is a lot older. They’re bigger, stronger, faster,” Barry said. “I think the O-line will do a lot better than it did last year.”

The most experienced returning player of all for the Firebirds is Kurt Shugart.
Shugart will be expected to play on both sides of the ball this season after being primarily a defensive player last season.

Shugart is prepared to take on his new role as a two-way player.

“You just have to have the attitude that no one is going to stop you,” Shugart said. “You have to get in great shape during the summer, which is what Coach Hamilton does. He kills us at workouts and we all get in killer shape.”

Coach Hamilton has high expectations for Shugart.

“He’s coming into his senior year and I feel like he’s our best overall player because of his versatility,” Coach Hamilton said. “He’ll be ready to go for sure.”

Shugart is no stranger to varsity football, as he will be entering his third year as a starter. He says being a young player on varsity has helped him prepare to be an old player.

“It’s been nice just being around all the older guys,” Shugart said. “I kind of learned how to grow up a little bit and be a leader watching them and having them to learn from. It’s my job to take on the role this year.”

Also returning on defense this season are senior outside linebacker/defensive end Brandon Jamison (79 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in 2014) and junior outside linebacker Parker Walton (six interceptions, 72 tackles, and 10 sacks).

Coach Hamilton says having an experienced player on the line (Jamison), at linebacker (Walton), and in the secondary (Shugart) will prove to be helpful.

“I think having a core nucleus of old guys bodes well for us,” Coach Hamilton said. “When you have quality guys like that it helps. They can get guys lined up where they need to be.”

Playing with a chip on their shoulder

If being in Division I was not enough to qualify the 2015 Chaparral football schedule as challenging, this statistic should do the trick: Every opponent the Firebirds will face in 2015 made the playoffs in 2015 in their respective divisions.
Coach Hamilton and the Firebirds are embracing the challenge.

“In Division I, there aren’t any cupcakes on your schedule,” Coach Hamilton said. “That’s what you want. Every game will be a challenge for us.”

Barry says the mentality that comes with playing at Chaparral will help the Firebirds as they play tougher competition.

“That’s just being Chaparral, we’ve always been the top team of the division that we play in,” Barry said. “We definitely have to play with a chip on our shoulder.”

Barry says the expectation for the Firebirds is 10-0, an undefeated regular season, and he says hard work can make that happen.

“We just need to practice more and get our chemistry better,” Barry said. “We just need to work more in the off-season.”

Shugart says the Firebirds’ goal is to show their opponents what Chaparral football is all about.

“The team’s goal is to shock everyone,” Shugart said. “No one believes us, but we know what we’re capable of, so we just want to shock everyone.”

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