Chase Clemens
ASU Student Journalist

Chandler runs over Corona del Sol, 42-0, improves to 4-0

September 16, 2023 by Chase Clemens, Arizona State University

Chandler gets set to play Corona del Sol on Friday at Corona del Sol High School. The defense shut out the 6A Conference's top passing offense and forced two turnovers. (Chase Clemens photo/AZPreps365)

Chase Clemens is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Chandler High School for

Chandler running back Ca’Lil Valentine took the opening handoff of the second half, shed a defender, and scampered down the sideline for 73 yards to the Corona del Sol 5-yard line. Up 28-0, this was the Wolves’ opportunity to put away the Aztecs on the road.

But Corona del Sol’s defense stacked the box on the next three plays, stopping Valentine each time. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, the senior was not going to be denied on his fourth straight carry near the goal line. 

“I’m not gonna stop until I get it,” Valentine said. “I told my coach to put his trust in me. I asked for the ball and that’s what he did.” 

On his fifth straight rush of the drive, Valentine bulldozed his way into the end zone for his fourth score of the game. The touchdown put the game out of reach, and Chandler (4-0) cruised past Corona del Sol (1-3) 42-0 on Friday in Tempe. 

Chandler Coach Rick Garretson did not need much convincing when deciding what play to call.

“We're always gonna put the ball in his hands,” Garretson said. “No question.”

Valentine rushed for a season high 207 yards on 19 carries.

The Wolves’ rushing attack and dominant defense helped Chandler control the game early. 

Corona went three-and-out on the game’s opening possession. Chandler responded by scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions of the game.

“We did exactly what I thought we would do,” Garretson said. “We overpowered them and did pretty much anything we wanted to on both sides of the ball.”

The Wolves scored touchdowns on two of their three second-half possessions. Junior running back Tristan Halsana put the Wolves ahead 42-0 on a 14-yard run with 8:47 remaining in the game. He finished with 47 yards rushing on four carries. 

Senior quarterback Blake Heffron completed 10 of 14 passes for 181 yards – a season high. The dual-threat passer also had 64 yards rushing. His ability to escape the pocket and move the chains through the air and on the ground wore out Corona del Sol’s defense.

“We knew our defense was getting tired and they can only hold up for so long,” Corona del Sol quarterback Connor Ackerley said. 

“Offensively, we have to control the ball a little bit better,” Ackerley said.

Even with the 6A Conference passing leader under center, the Aztecs offense couldn’t generate any momentum in the first half, punting on all six possessions. Chandler’s defense held Ackerley to 153 passing yards on 19-of-25 passing. He averaged 335 yards passing per game coming into the matchup.

Ackerley completed four consecutive passes on the Aztecs' opening drive of the second half, including a 34-yard pass to senior receiver Zuri Glenn. Two plays later Chandler linebacker Cam Cooper stripped the ball from a scrambling Ackerley and recovered the fumble. This was the first of two costly turnovers by the Aztecs in the second half.

Corona del Sol has played a difficult schedule, losing to Centennial, Pinnacle and Chandler in consecutive games. Despite Friday’s outcome, Corona del Sol Coach Jake Barro saw positives that his team can build from. 

“We have to stay focused on our ultimate goal of reaching the playoffs and winning in the playoffs,” Barro said. “Our strength of schedule right now is tough enough that we’re going to be in a good place when the first playoff rankings come out.”

Corona del Sol will play at Marcos de Niza at 7 p.m. Friday. Chandler hosts Highland on Friday at 7 p.m.