Phoenix Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke refused to talk about star quarterback Spencer Rattler after he was held Friday on Senior Night.
“I don’t have any comment on that,” Zupke said.
Asked how long Rattler might be out, Zupke said, “I can’t talk about that.”
Rattler practiced late Wednesday afternoon and looked good to go for the ESPNU game that was set up in the summer as a clash of two of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
But some time between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning for Pinnacle’s walk-through practice, something happened.
Rattler told azcentral sports on Thursday his knee had been bothering him since Tuesday and he had a sprained MCL.
Pressed on what happened, Zupke repeated, “I can’t talk about that.”
Scenes from the field from around the state.
Pinnacle didn’t need Rattler in its 23-7 win over Scottsdale Chaparral.
Nor did it need its other top playmaker, Kaleb Covington, who was knocked out in the first half with a shoulder injury.
And even with starting running back Kenji Roland out of his shoulder pads in the second half, Pinnacle had enough to win with Chaparral’s own struggles.
ESPNU was hoping to showcase a showdown between the Oklahoma commit Rattler and Ohio State commit Jack Miller.
Instead, footage was of Rattler limping on the sideline and Miller on crutches, encouraging fellow junior Sam Triester, who was making his first varsity start.
Rattler was introduced with his parents and sister before the game as part of the Senior Night. He spent the game on the Pinnacle sideline limping, a sleeve over his right knee.
“It’s tender,” Rattler said before the game about his knee. “Can’t really put too much pressure on it.”
Void of star players, Pinnacle discovered another running back in Alonzo Maya, usually a linebacker, who had nearly 100 yards in the final quarter alone.
Kicker Dominic Persi hit on three field goals for Pinnacle (8-1), the No. 2-ranked team in the 6A playoff rankings.
Backup quarterback J.D. Johnson shook off a shaky first quarter and ended up throwing for more than 200 yards, and found Marcus Libman for a scoring pass in the second quarter for a 14-7 lead.
“He’s got big shoes to fill on a big stage,” Zupke said of Johnson. “When some of our playmakers go down, he’s got to be able to step up. He did a fantastic job. It wasn’t perfect. But coming in we didn’t prepare for him to be the starter this week. But for him to have the success he had, says a lot.”
But what is in store for the five-star Rattler the rest of his final high schools season?
Rattler said he expects to be out one more week.
If it’s longer, Johnson is ready.
“We are a force to be reckoned with,” Johnson said. “We’re unpredictable but we’ll come out and smack you in the mouth.”
Triester had nearly 100 passing yards in the first quarter when he found junior wide receiver Tommy Christakos for a 10-yard scoring pass to give Chaparral a 7-0 lead.
But after that, Triester struggled and with Ohio State-committed junior tailback Darvon Hubbard not at 100 percent with an ankle issue, the Firebirds (5-4) struggled to run the ball.
Twice on fourth-and-short, Hubbard was stuffed for no gain.
Sophomore Jared Williams made a big 44-yard catch-and-run play and made another 15-yard run that moved Chaparral to the 1 late in the third quarter. But instead of cutting the score to 17-14, Chaparral was backed up five yards with a penalty, before Hubbard fumbled after taking a handoff, turning the ball over to Pinnacle.
“We had chances,” coach Brent Barnes said. “We had it at the 1-yard line. We made a mistake by not being lined up correctly. It’s something that’s very simple. It’s unfortunate we didn’t capitalize there. Then we turn the ball over on the next play.”
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