Two weeks after experiencing the euphoria of a Class 6A state championship, the program’s fifth and first in 10 years, the Miami Northwestern Bulls thought their 2017 season was in the books.
But a last-minute invitation to participate in the Geico State Champions Bowl Series when another team pulled out proved too much of a temptation to turn down.
The Bulls probably wished they had after suffering a lopsided 55-20 loss to Chandler (Ariz.) High at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix late Saturday night in a nationally televised game on ESPNU.
A Northwestern defense that had touted itself as the “best in the country” all season long proved absolutely no match for a Chandler team, ranked No. 22 in the nation by USA Today and No. 17 Max Preps, that averaged 47.1 points per game en route to its own Arizona 6A state title, scoring 50-plus points seven times before making it eight after Saturday night.
“The whole thing was definitely a challenge for us because a lot of the kids had already checked out after we won the title a few weeks ago,” said Bulls coach Max Edwards. “To be honest, it was kind of a split and not all the kids were on board with it. Some had never been on a plane before and wanted to go, and some had kind of already shut it down. So we just kind of turned it into a fun thing for the kids to enjoy, but unfortunately that didn’t translate well to the way we played on the field.”
And it showed as Chandler quarterback Jacob Conover lit the Bulls defense up all night, throwing for 342 yards and five touchdowns, two of those to BYU commit Gunner Romney who caught seven passes for 129 yards, and ran for a score, as well.
One Bull who clearly showed up ready to play was quarterback Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell. Just days after early-signing to bring his talents to Louisville, Atwell showed just how dangerous he will be for the Cardinals, at least as a wildcat quarterback or slot receiver, which is how he is being projected, by putting on a show, at least with his feet.
While he didn’t do much through the air, throwing two interceptions, Atwell was nearly unstoppable on the ground, scoring all three of Northwestern’s touchdowns on runs of 45, 71 and 76 yards and finishing the night with 284 yards rushing.
After Conover had gotten Chandler out to an early 13-0 lead on a pair of touchdown passes, Atwell took on his first score from 45 yards to cut the deficit to 13-7 at the end of the first quarter.
But Conover was as unstoppable through the air as Atwell was on the ground, leading his team downfield three more times in the second quarter, throwing two more touchdown passes and running for one as Chandler took a nearly insurmountable 34-7 lead to the locker room at halftime.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Chandler because they have a great football team but unfortunately that wasn’t Bulls football anybody saw out there on that field,” said Edwards. “It was a struggle from start to finish but in no way does that take away from what we accomplished this season as our goal was to win a state title and that’s exactly what we did.”