Chase Clemens
ASU Student Journalist

Basha holds off Chandler, 47-42, in clash of top-5 teams

October 21, 2023 by Chase Clemens, Arizona State University

Chandler senior quarterback Blake Heffron warms up before the start of the second half on Friday at Basha High School. Heffron was 21-of-31 passing for 296 yards and threw a career high six touchdown passes. (Zach Grover photo)

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

The most highly anticipated game of the week in Arizona between two of the top-ranked teams in the state lived up to the hype as both No. 4 Basha (7-1) and No. 3 Chandler (6-2) scored four touchdowns on eight consecutive drives in the second half. 

It was a back-and-forth-shootout and the Bears outlasted the Wolves, 47-42, at Basha High School on Friday. For Basha, it was the third consecutive victory over Chandler dating back to Week 8 and the playoff semifinals last season.

“Chandler has been king of the castle for a long time,” Basha coach Chris McDonald said. “To come out and get this win tonight against a very good team that I think is open-worthy, it's big.”

Chandler trailed 17-14 at halftime and by 10 points on four separate occasions in the final two quarters and responded with a touchdown each time. But the Bears’ defense rallied when it mattered. 

Trailing 45-42, the Wolves had possession on  their own 20-yard line with 1:47 remaining and an opportunity to tie or win the game. Three plays later, on 4th-and-12, Chandler senior quarterback Black Heffron was sacked in his own end zone for a safety with one minute remaining.

“Credit to the defensive line,” McDonald said. “We rushed three-on-five and they were able to get to the quarterback. And our secondary did a good job. Obviously, I have to watch the film, but it looked to me like everybody was covered.”

Despite falling short, Heffron had a career night. He was 21-of-31 passing for 296 yards and threw six touchdown passes. His last was the most impressive. 

Trailing Basha 45-35 with under four minutes remaining in the game, Heffron dodged two defenders to avoid a sack and found senior running back Gio Borrea in the back of the end zone to make it a one-possession game.

“Part of the game plan was to attack them through the air,” Heffron said. “We knew coming here that Basha has a great defense and a great offense, and that we were gonna have to score.”

Basha senior quarterback Demon Williams Jr. shined as well. The Bears offense ran entirely through the Arizona Wildcat commit. Williams Jr. had 23 carries for 111 yards and three touchdowns.

“Demon is hard to defend,” Chandler Coach Rick Garretson said. “Their game plan is pretty simple. It's to put the ball in his hands and do things. And he's able to do it. So hats off to them.”

Williams Jr. was 14-of-19 passing for 239 yards and one touchdown -- a 71-yard bomb to senior receiver Mason Arhin.The score was Basha’s second play from scrimmage of the half and gave the Bears a 24-14 lead with 8:36 left in the third quarter. 

“We had run that play previously,” Arhin said, “and it was kind of open. So then we came back to it. And I saw the safety fly over to the other half of the field and I just finished the play. I'm thankful.”

It was not the Bears’ biggest play of the quarter. After trading one touchdown apiece, Chandler senior receiver Justice Spann caught an 8-yard touchdown to narrow the deficit to 31-28 with 3:26 left in the third. 

Basha junior receiver Gio Richardson returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. Richardson also had a 57-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a 7-0 first quarter lead.

“Those big scores helped us out a lot,” Richardson said. “It gave us confidence. You have to keep the momentum on offense.”

Chandler started the season 6-0 and climbed to No. 1 in the state and No. 20 nationally. Now, after two consecutive defeats, the Wolves are reeling. The team has two regular season games remaining to get back on track prior to postseason play.

“We didn't do our job and special teams cost us,” Garretson said. “We were undisciplined and it cost us a bunch of penalties. We did play physical. We did play fast. We had a lot of offense. But in order to win games like that, you have to have other things in tact.”

The Bears, on the other hand, have won six straight after its 22-21 Week 2 loss to Highland and have steadily climbed up the rankings.

Chandler plays at Perry (7-1) in Gilbert on Friday at 7 p.m. Basha hosts Casteel (4-4) at Jim Wall Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.