PHOENIX – Colorado’s premier Cherry Creek High School recently traveled more than 600 miles to play a game against Arizona’s top high school Chandler High, allowing the two to test their programs beyond the borders of the ‘State.
Wolves won 17-7 behind a defense that intercepted Cherry Creek quarterback Christian Hammond three times, but the encounter was more than wins and losses.
“It’s all about trying to raise the bar and take on the best teams and take on the challenges,” said Chandler coach Rick Garretson. “We challenge our children and put them in a difficult environment where on the road it helps us. Playing these top schools like Cherry Creek is a win-win situation for both parties. “
The best high schools in the country are programming distant opponents to improve their game. The benefits are vast, coaches say, but it doesn’t come cheap. Many Colorado schools, for example, travel to a talented Florida and get help from companies like KSA Events. The Preparing Sports Travel Agency is reserving all-inclusive trips that will include flight, hotels and entertainment. It can cost around $ 1,800 per person, a company spokesperson told The Denver Post, with fundraising often needed to help pay for travel.
Chandler is in Arizona’s top flight, extending his winning streak to 38 games and ending a 25-game streak for the Bruins, who are two-time reigning state champions at Colorado. The Wolives have won five consecutive state championships (three in 6A and two in the Arizona Open Division) and are ranked No.12 in the most recent MaxPreps Top 25 National High School Football Rankings.
Wolves have a tradition of testing themselves out of state. For example, they traveled to Corona, California to take on the Centennial High in California. They lost that game, but won a state title. In 2019, they traveled to Henderson, Nevada, and beat the Liberty High plant.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Wolves from programming an enemy out of state last season, but when the opportunity presented itself this year to play Cherry Creek, Garretson jumped at the chance in the hope to give his players a cornerstone to another title.
“Every game we play is a big game,” Garretson said. “There is no difference in that sense because you can only play 10 a year and nothing is guaranteed after that.”
Like Chandler, Cherry Creek looks out of state every year. The Bruins were scheduled to travel to Pennsylvania to face North Allegheny last season, but the game was called off due to the pandemic.
That left them with an open game on their schedule this season, so they went looking nearby and found Chandler.
“We went to the national board and looked at neighboring states that were relatively close and saw that Chandler had an open date,” said Dave Logan, Cherry Creek coach and former NFL wide receiver with the Browns and the Broncos who also served as the Broncos’ voice radio for 22 seasons.
“I know Chandler well and their success and their program,” said Logan, who coached four different Denver-area high schools at the state championships and was named National Coach of the Year by American Football Monthly in 2001. .
“They have great players, great team speed and know how to win. So we recognize that this was a big, big opportunity. I’m a high school football fan, and I know Chandler and followed what they did. They have a great program and know they are a different beast.
“Their kids expect to win every time they take the field and look to hit their yearlong goals, which is what we’re trying to do in Colorado.”
Logan said a four-day-a-week, eight-week summer schedule laid the groundwork for the Bruins, who won their first two games of the season without giving up a point.
“Success breeds success, but you have to embrace the process,” Logan said. “If it was easy, you would show up just in August, two weeks before school started, and you would do it that way.” You can’t have a championship caliber program doing this. We know we have a target in the back in the state because of our success. “
The game served as a measure for both teams before they embarked on serious competition within their states.
“The pressure of the game is not a playoff game.” Logan said before the game. “It’s not a playoff game for us or for Chandler. When the game is over Chandler is going to focus on winning the Arizona games and we will go back to Denver and focus on winning the Colorado. It really is a win-win for both of us.