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Brandon Buckner, Eli Sanders, Zion Magalei, Mikey Keene … stacked Chandler once again the team to beat in Arizona high school football

Previewing the Chandler Wolves of 6A Region 2 (Premier)
z.CHANDLER.2.Paul-Mason

SBLive Arizona will preview every 6A football team in the state leading up to the 2020 high school football season. Here’s our look at the Chandler Wolves of 6A Region 2 (Premier).

Photo by Paul Mason

CHANDLER TEAM PAGE | 2020 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

HEAD COACH

Rick Garretson, second season (13-0)

2019 AT A GLANCE

Overall record: 13-0

Region record: 4-0, first place in 6A Premier

Playoffs: Open, beat Chaparral 56-14 in quarterfinals, beat Salpointe Catholic 24-16 in semifinals, beat Saguaro 42-35 in championship game

ALL-REGION PLAYERS DEPARTED

RB Daveon Hunter, conference player of the year

DB Gunner Maldanado, first team

LB Tate Romney, first team

LB Malik Reed, first team

G Nehemiah Magalei, first team

OL Alexis Castro, first team

WR Barron Miles, second team

LB Riley Barton, honorable mention

CB Terry Byrd, honorable mention

DE Bryant Jackson, honorable mention

2020 SCHEDULE (All games 7 p.m.)

Oct. 2, at Liberty

Oct. 9, Pinnacle

Oct. 16, Perry

Oct. 23, at Higley

Oct. 30, at Centennial

Nov. 6, at Desert Vista

Nov. 13, Highland

Read More

Nov. 20, Hamilton

PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Mikey Keene, 5-11, 185, Sr.

A recent Central Florida commit (No. 17 recruit in 247Sports’ state rankings) and second-team all-region pick, the dual-threat signal-caller is quick on the release and can create on the run. He threw for 2,835 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior, completing nearly 73 percent of his passes (193 of 265) with just five interceptions. “He checks all the boxes of a great quarterback,” Garretson said. “He’s just a phenomenal player.”

Mikey Keene photo by Liebrock Photography

DE Brandon Buckner, 6-2, 235, Sr.

A first-team all-conference selection, the University of Oregon commit and the state’s No. 11 recruit according to 247Sports should provide Ducks fans plenty of appetite-whetting highlights this fall. Of his 54 tackles last season, 24 were for loss, including 16 sacks. He had 10 hurries and three forced fumbles. “I’m just glad we don’t have to play against him,” Garretson said. “He plays beyond his years in terms of his relentlessness and hand-to-hand combat skills to rush the passer.”

DE Zion Magalei, 6-3, 240, Sr.

A first-team all-conference pick a year ago and the state’s No. 21 recruit according to 247Sports has several Power 5 offers, including ones from Air Force, Arizona, Colorado and Kansas State. He had 51 tackles, 14 for loss, and 11½ sacks as a junior. “Just a very physical player,” Garretson said. “He’s a force in the run game, and he’s a speed guy as well.”

RB Eli Sanders, 6-0, 190, Sr.

A second-team all-conference honoree and the state’s 20th-ranked recruit according to 247Sports, Sanders committed to Boise State over the summer after a junior season during which he missed five games after transferring from Mountain Pointe. Sanders ran for 643 yards and 10 touchdowns playing behind Hunter, and with the 6A player of the year now at Hawaii, Sanders can truly shine in the Wolves’ attack this fall. “He showed patience sitting five games, and he’s ready now to take over the No. 1 job,” Garretson said. “He’s got excellent vision, is very fast, an outstanding receiver, and understands his blocking assignments.” 

DT Jeremiah Tyler, 6-2, 240, Sr.

The second-team all-region selection moved from running back to the defensive line last season. He had 21 tackles for loss among his 65 tackles to go with 7½ sacks and 18 quarterback hurries, drawing attention from Mid-American and FCS schools. He’ll start in the interior line but can slide to end or middle linebacker depending on scheme. “He’s just hard to block,” Garretson said. “He’s always causing issues in the backfield, either ours in practice or our opponents’ on Friday nights.”

C Tevai Neher, 5-11, 290, Sr.

The three-year starter moved into the middle of the offensive line last year and helped the Wolves average 10.1 yards per carry before suffering an ACL injury in the quarterfinal win over Chaparral. A versatile lineman who recently received offers from FCS schools Drake and Lamar, Neher could slide to guard or even tackle in a pinch. “He’s a really smart kid and definitely the leader of our offensive line unit,” Garretson said. 

K/P Crew Peterman, 6-1, 190, Sr.

Peterman, a second-team all-region pick, showed accuracy (88 for 88 on PATs) and strength (18 touchbacks on kickoffs, 39 yards per punt) last season. “Probably the best kicker we’ve had in my 11 years here,” Garretson said. “He gives us a weapon in the kick game.”

WR Kyion Grayes, 6-1, 175, Jr.

The second-team all-region pick and 247Sports’ sixth-ranked junior recruit in the state recently committed to Arizona. He caught a team-high 48 passes for 883 yards and six touchdowns last year, and he’ll play both outside and in the slot to create mismatches with safeties and linebackers. Garretson raved about Grayes’ ability to get yards after contact, a category in which Graves led the team last season. “Just a fantastic football player,” Garretson said. “He plays ahead of his years. The success he had as a sophomore is a testament to how good he is.”

WR Jalen Richmond, 6-0, 180, Sr.

A second-team all-region pick and Boise State commit (No. 24 on 247Sports’ Arizona list), Richmond caught 41 passes for 725 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns as a junior. Garretson called him the team’s spark plug, with a knack for coming up with big plays early in big games that got the team going. “It’s amazing to see his growth as a player,” Garretson said. “He’s a really good high-point guy. Any 50-50 balls thrown his way, he’s coming down with them.”

RB Quaron Adams, 5-8, 150, Jr.

The No. 4 junior prospect in 247Sports’ state rankings and the state 100-meter champion as a freshman, Adams played in only four games as a sophomore because of a broken collarbone. His first play back in the quarterfinal win over Chaparral, he broke a 55-yard fly sweep for a touchdown. “A lot of track guys can’t bring that speed to the football field, but Quaron does,” Garretson said. “He could be one of the best big-play guys in the nation this year. We can put him all over the place, because he just has a skill set that not many players have.”

S Kentrell Williams Jr., 5-11, 185, Sr.

Williams is a recent Eastern Washington commit who figures to have a big senior season after making 58 tackles, breaking up six passes and intercepting two as a junior. He’ll also return punts. “He’s one of those guys with a real high football IQ,” Garretson said. “He’s good in space as a defender and always is in position to make plays.”

LB Kyler Orr, 6-2, 220, Sr.

The team’s top returning tackler with 84 (12 for loss, two sacks) is a two-year starter at middle linebacker. His absence was felt when he missed the regular-season finale last year against Hamilton — the Wolves gave up a season-high 38 points and narrowly escaped with a victory. “There was definitely a void there,” Garretson said. “We had Tate and Malik there at linebacker, but Kyler was the glue who kept things together for us.”

TE Eli Swope, 6-2, 225, Sr.

Swope (16 catches for 207 yards in 2019) and fellow all-region honorable mention pick Nason Coleman (6-3, 230-pounder who ranks 12th on 247Sports’ list of juniors) were slated to share tight end and H-back duties before Coleman suffered a season-ending knee injury at practice. That leaves the job solely in Swope’s capable hands — he has several FCS offers. Swope played on the offensive line in youth ball and remains an outstanding blocker. 

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

Where to begin with the Wolves? They added the inaugural Open Division championship last fall to their three consecutive 6A championships from 2016-18 and their 2014 Division 1 title. They boast a 26-game win streak, have 24 players (and counting) with FBS or FCS offers, and enter the season No. 6 in the country in the USA Today Super 25 rankings.

“We know we’ve got a bull’s eye on us,” said Garretson, who took over last season after eight-year head coach Shawn Aguano left to become running backs coach at Arizona State.

“But you’ve got to earn that bull’s eye. We’re used to it by now. We know we’ll get everybody’s best shot. But we put targets on other teams, too.”

The Wolves play fast, and it’s hard to replicate their speed before squaring off with them under the Friday night lights. With Keene having a season under his belt in the offense and plenty of weapons at his disposal, Chandler could challenge the 6A record for points per game set by Perry two seasons ago (46.5).

“Mikey has total command of the offense right now,” Garretson said. “I’m pretty happy with where the kids are right now.”

MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO

Realistically, the Wolves should find themselves in the Open Division final in early December, and it would be considered a significant surprise if they do not lift the trophy again.

In the past, teams could at least try to outscore Chandler, as the defense was not at the same high caliber of the offense. But that’s no longer the case — not with Pac-12 talents Buckner and Magalei swooping in on quarterbacks from the ends, Orr and senior Hank Pepper (6-2, 205, and a San Diego State commit as a long snapper) manning the middle, and Williams and senior Tony Brewer (6-4, 200) anchoring the secondary.

“Things started balancing out a couple years ago,” Garretson said. “Having those two (Buckner and Magalei) who know how to put pressure on the quarterback just helps us on the back end.”

COACH SAID

“There are no layups for us. We have to play hard, just like we had to in the playoffs last year. But if we do that, I like our chances.” — Rick Garretson

MORE: 2020 ARIZONA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW