Jacob Conover looked like he hadn’t missed a game Friday when he dissected visiting Gilbert Perry’s defense in a 55-27 rout before an overflow crowd at Chandler’s Austin Field.
The junior quarterback, who had been out since late in the first half of the Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy loss in August, threw a 43-yard touchdown pass and ran for another score in a 21-point second quarter, as the defending state champion Wolves showed top-ranked Perry who is king of Arizona 6A football when they are healthy.
Afterwards, Chandler made a classy move by gathering its team and bringing Perry’s players to midfield, where they all took a knee to remember Perry sophomore defensive back Brayden Mason, who died Sunday in a drowning accident at Bartlett Lake. A Chandler player rose and delivered heart-felt words.
Conover, who has an offer from Alabama, missed 5 ½ games with a shoulder injury. But he came out fast, showing off a strong arm and connecting deep with senior receiver Gunner Romney like it was old times.
He completed 11 of 17 for 172 yards in a 28-0 first half, when Perry’s offense went dormant against a fast, aggressive defense that gave Brock Purdy his worst half of his career.
Conover threw another TD pass late in the third quarter from 13 yards out to Jarick Caldwell to make it a 48-6 game.
“The main thing was being prepared mentally,” Conover said about the time off. “I had to stay in it mentally and help Billy (Bolger) out. He helped me. We’re right there for each other.”
Chandler (6-2) locked down Perry’s receivers for the most part in man coverage and sacked Purdy four times in the half.
Purdy was 7 of 19 for 73 yards in the half. Perry, which had scored at least 49 points in its first six games, was even worse running the ball. It had minus-6 yards on 13 carries.
Chandler’s line dominated, giving running backs Drake Anderson and DeCarlos Brooks enough time to keep drives alive. Anderson broke loose for a 31-yard touchdown during Chandler’s big second quarter and then scored on runs of 2, 68 and 48 yards in the second half.
Chandler Wolves dominate No.1 Gilbert Perry
Richard Obert/azcentral sports
Anderson, who missed all of his junior season because of hip surgery, had more than 200 yards. There are now some college coaches reaching out to Chandler coaches to ask about him. This performance will only help his recruiting cause.
Conover showed no rust in his comeback. He was given time to check off his receivers before finding an open man. He was good with his feet. And his arm strength was as good as it has ever been.
- Romney, who has committed to BYU, caught four passes for 80 yards in the half.
- Tre Hart was left wide open and caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Conover.
- Perry showed life on its first series of the second half behind two big runs by Jalen Young, who had 60 yards on two plays, before Purdy found Colby Dickie for 32-yard touchdown to cap an 80-yard drive and make it 28-6.
Brooks sometimes doesn’t get the top billing with Anderson having a remarkable season. But after Perry cut it to 28-6 to start the second half, Brooks peeled off a 65-yard run, after Anderson’s 60-yard run was called back by a penalty. That led to Anderson’s 2-yard run and a four-touchdowns cushion again.
Conover ran the two-minute drill to perfection to close the first half. He found Romney for 10 yards, then Jarick Caldwell for 15 yards, moving Chandler to the 33. After an 8-yard run by Brooks, Conover found Romney for another seven yards to the 3. Romney spiked the ball to kill the clock with 28 seconds left. After an offensive pass interference put the ball on the 13, Conover couldn’t find an open receiver. He took off with it and ran for the touchdown with 12 seconds left, building a 28-0 lead.
Perry came into the game having only punted the ball four times in six games. It had that many punts in the first half.
“A lot of our guys who were out were our leaders,” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said. “I was grateful for the guys who stepped up (in the past five games), like Billy Bolger. They got a lot of playing time. I think the depth made us stronger. But having our leaders back, we were clicking at a different level.”
On Anderson, Aguano said: “Drake Anderson, there’s no question he’s the best running back in the state of Arizona.”
Chandler gets a bye next week and plays Phoenix Brophy Prep on Oct. 20. Perry (6-1), which was coming off a bye, plays Brophy next week at Phoenix College.