Basha wipes out an early Highland lead with a first-half onslaught and coasts to an important win for its playoff hopes.
With three weeks left until the end of the season and playoffs looming, teams need to begin to think about how a win here or there might help them in the rankings.
For Chandler Basha – No. 16 of the top 16 in the Power Rankings – may have greatly increased its playoff chances holding off a tough Gilbert Highland team, 48-31 in a Division I, Section I game.
“We knew this was going to be a big one,” said Basha wide receiver Jared Schmidt, who finished with 188 yards receiving and two touchdowns. “It’s really good for us to get into the playoffs with this win. With all the hard work we put in practice and just the hard work we put into it, it’s coming true right now.”
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Schmidt was a favorite target for Basha quarterback Ryan Kelley throughout the night.
Trailing 7-0, Kelley connected with Hunter Rison to tie the game with 3:01 left in the first quarter on a 29-yard play that completed a quick four play, 77-yard drive.
“Our offense was just working the entire game,” said Kelley, who finished with 418 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. “It all starts with the (offensive) lineman down front, and they were keeping me protected. Then it comes to the receivers getting open and then it comes to me throwing the football.”
Kelley first connected with Schmidt to break the 7-all tie on an 81-yard pass that opened the flood gates for Basha (5-3, 2-1 section) as it scored 34 unanswered points to take a commanding 34-7 lead before halftime.
“We had to take advantage of what we were doing and go from there,” Basha coach Gerald Todd said. “One thing we had to do was to step it up and take care of some business. Our defense came back at the end and made two great plays that were crucial. Our defense stepped it up and did a great job.”
The Basha defense forced recovered two fumbles and had two interceptions.
After Highland (5-3, 1-2) got the ball back with 7:10 left in the game and trailing 48-31, it began a drive that looked like it might score, but Austin Williams got his first of two interceptions when he jumped up and picked off Keegan Michelson’s pass at the 5-yard line.
“The first (Highland) touchdown was on me, so I put it in my head that I was going to come out here and make a play,” said Williams, who also picked off Michelson again, ending a promising drive for Highland. “They were running slants all game, so I was going to cheat inside, and it was right there in my hands. We had to step it up and play our butts off, and that’s what we did.”
Highland’s Josh Chadwick finished with 260 yards on the ground and had one touchdown.