Chandler Basha gets a chance at redemption, and leading the way is the guy who wants nothing more than to prove he can break through Chandler’s defense.
Senior quarterback Zach Werlinger will try to make amends Friday night when the Bears (6-5) travel to play No.2-seed Chandler (9-2) in the Division I football quarterfinals.
Three weeks ago, in a 49-7 loss to Chandler, Werlinger was held to fewer than 100 passing yards, did not throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted twice.
It came two weeks after Werlinger injured his throwing hand in a 32-31 loss to Hamilton, in which he had one of his best games, rushing for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and passing for more than 300 yards and two scores.
Werlinger’s hand isn’t bothering him now.
That was evident last week when he completed 27 of 41 passes for 467 yards and three TDs and drove Basha for the game-winning field goal with 19 seconds left in a 43-42 victory at seventh-seed Phoenix Horizon.
“He’s such a warrior,” coach Bernie Busken said. “It doesn’t enter his mind (an injury).”
Busken put together a five-minute highlight tape just of Werlinger’s game against Hamilton to send to college recruiters.
Even though the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Werlinger has a 4.6 grade-point average and has passed for 3,119 yards and 25 TDs with nine interceptions, he doesn’t have a single scholarship offer from a four-year college.
It astounds Busken, a former college coach, who tries to tell any college coach he can find that Werlinger is the toughest quarterback mentally that he has ever coached. And that includes former Mesa Mountain View star John Beck, who quarterbacked in the NFL.
“If you watch that right there, I mean it doesn’t get any better than playing against Hamilton’s defense,” Busken said. “It’s just frustrating, because whoever takes him is going to absolutely crap at how good he really is.
“He’s poised. He’s got arm strength. He understands what we’re doing. And he’s taken some shots. And he gets up and back to the huddle and gets us going. And he’s an absolutely wonderful kid. He’ll do everything you can think of. And when you get him on the field, he’s going to start for you.”
Werlinger, who takes honors courses and is the leader of an academics club at the schools, takes it in strides.
More important it leading Basha deeper into the state playoffs.
Everything else will come in time.
“I try to play really hard during the season and hopefully it will take care of itself at the end,” Werlinger said. “That’s always been my approach.”
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