Chandler High School football’s quarterback competition was one of the top storylines in Arizona high school football this last offseason.
The Wolves had three players transfer in from out of state for their senior seasons who were vying for the starting job to replace former quarterback Mikey Keene who is now at Central Florida.
Blaine Hipa from Hawaii, KJ Cooper from Texas and Ethan Moore from California have all been competing for the spot since the spring.
After much evaluation, last Friday, Chandler head coach Rick Garretson announced that Hipa had earned the job as QB1.
— Jordan Hamm (@JordyHamm) August 28, 2021
“We went through the summer rotating those guys virtually every series,” Garretson said of coming to a decision. “Through the pre-fall and in to fall (Hipa) rated out, but he’s got to maintain that and produce.”
Hipa is the only quarterback out of the three with much experience.
The Hawaii native had 2,582 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2019 during his sophomore season at Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii and helped lead the Sabers to the Open Division semis that year.
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MOVING TO THE MAINLAND
Hipa’s junior season at Campbell High was cancelled due to COVID and with a lot of uncertainty at the beginning of the year on if Hawaii would have a football season in 2021, Hipa and his family decided to make the move to Arizona.
“I felt I needed to play football my senior year and not depend on the state of Hawaii and their rules for sports,” Hipa said. “I needed to play my senior year.”
2019 Season Highlight
Full Season Stats
Total Passing Yards: 2570
Total Passing Touchdowns: 31
Total Rushing Touchdowns: 4
— Blaine Hipa (@BlaineHipa) June 11, 2020
Hipa is somewhat familiar with Chandler football. He has family here in the state and he came over to the mainland when he was in seventh grade and played in the Wolves’ speed and skill camp.
“Being able to be a part of a team like Chandler is a great opportunity for me,” Hipa said. “Chandler reminds me a lot of home sometimes.”
Chandler’s football culture and its embodiment of ‘Ohana’ is well known. It’s that family bond that the team has that has stood out to Hipa and helped him adjust since making the move in March.
“Coming out here that was a big thing, was being able to create relationships with people,” Hipa said. “I appreciate everyone for taking me in as family.”
Hipa is unlike any quarterback Garretson has coached.
“He’s the first left-handed quarterback I’ve coached in 30 years,” Garretson said. “You wouldn’t think that takes a little adjustment, but it does. Not in the drop back game but in pass play there’s certain things you want to do to his throwing hand. That’s been a little different for me.”
— Just Chilly (@JUSTCHILLY) May 29, 2021
It’s also not lost on Garretson that Hipa has the island flair that we’ve seen in some other quarterbacks out of Hawaii who have seen success in recent years.
Hipa named fellow Hawaii natives Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota, and Dillon Gabriel as players who he looks up to and tries to emanate.
“I’ve seen a lot of Hawaii quarterbacks come out and go big in the pros,” Hipa said. “What I think makes me stand out (too) is my play-making ability and my ability to lead.”
The 6’2” 200 pound quarterback is rated as the No. 4 quarterback in Arizona and the No. 26 overall player in the state.
He holds offers from Tennessee and Hawaii.
“Nobody knows about him, but he’s going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the state,” Garretson said. “He has the intangibles: nice arm, accurate, good speed and he’s got that Hawaiian swag in him. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do on Friday.”
THE 2021 CHANDLER OFFENSE
Chandler’s offense was dealt a blow last week when they lost wide receiver Kyion Grayes to a shoulder injury in the team’s scrimmage against Williams Field.
Grayes is an Ohio State commit and is the No. 2 player in Arizona in the 2022 class according to 247Sports. He could miss six to eight weeks.
— Kyion Grayes II (@KyiongrayesII) February 28, 2021
One thing Chandler does not lack however, is depth and the Wolves immediately adapted that next man up mentality to make adjustments.
“We had a bunch of guys make plays,” Garretson said of his team’s performance in the scrimmage after Grayes injury. “For our kids to rally up and perform pretty well…I was happy with the outcome.”
The Wolves will likely lean on Iowa State commit Quaron Adams while Grayes is out.
Adams is rated as the No. 8 player in the state.
Having playmakers up and down the depth chart is something Hipa is happy to have this season.
“We have a lot of depth,” Hipa said. “What’s in that depth is a bunch of young, very talented kids that know what they’re doing and can make plays. I think that’s going to be a huge part of our offense this year.”
On the topic of depth, Garretson did not get in to how he will utilize his other two quarterbacks much but he did say we could see Cooper in the red zone and that Moore holds a valuable position as the backup.
“You’re only as good as what your number two quarterback is,” Garretson said. “You’re one ankle or knee from being the next man up. Ethan is in a huge role on the team being in that number two spot getting limited reps but being expected to perform.”
Chandler will take on the Centennial Coyotes on Friday, Sept. 3 at Austin Field.
How To Watch
All games this season will be televised on YurView Arizona – Cox channel 4 in Phoenix and channel 7 in Tucson. Cox customers can also watch the games on their phones using the Cox Contour App. Download the Coutour App on Apple and Android.
Live streams and replays of all games will be available to rent or purchase at watch.yurview.com.
Visit yurview.com throughout the season for Arizona player profiles and high school game previews.