The Snowflake vs. Chandler Valley Christian playoff game felt like a tale of two halves Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps more accurately, it was a tale of three teams: Valley Christian, Snowflake in the first half and, third, Snowflake in the second half, which prevailed 44-10.

Although it sounds like a joke, the Snowflake team that came out of the locker room after halftime was 100% different than the team that played the first two quarters of the 3A state tournament semifinal at Gilbert Campo High School.

In the first half, Snowflake’s offense felt disjointed. The Lobos were barely able to make any impact. On the first drive, for example, they were stopped after only three plays. They didn’t even gain a first down before they were forced to punt.

Defensively, it felt like a mixture of sometimes stopping Valley Christian and other times just trying to minimize damage. The Trojans’ running back seemed to gain 5 to 8 yards on every carry, making the defensive line look foolish.

Snowflake managed to limp out of the first half with a 10-3 deficit. Coincidentally, both teams kicked 41-yard field goals, but Valley Christian got a long pass to its star receiver to differentiate the score.

Anyone watching the game could tell that the better team was Valley Christian — and it wasn’t even close.

The second half started with Snowflake immediately stopping a Valley Christian drive.

Something got into Camden Brimhall because he ran for 48 yards on four carries to start the Lobos’ first possession of the second half. He seemed to find the holes and began to weave between tacklers rather than try to run the defense over.

Sam Crockett kicked in his second field goal of the afternoon that narrowed the Trojans’ lead to 10-6. He followed that with a kickoff that pinned Valley Christian on its 10-yard line.

The Lobos’ defense was unrelenting, stopping the Trojans without letting them gain more than 4 yards. When Valley Christian went to punt, the long snapper sent the ball too high and the punter couldn’t catch it.

A scramble for the loose ball ensued. Junior Bradden Lewis came up with the ball for Snowflake in the end zone resulting in a touchdown and a 13-10 lead.

After that, things just kept on going Snowflake’s way. The defense stopped Valley Christian quickly for the second time, giving the Lobos good field position.

Brimhall again led the way with his superior running. When they got within 15 yards, a quick pass to Noah Baum secured the second Lobos touchdown and a 20-10 lead.

The ball seemed to go wherever Crockett wanted it on a kickoff. The previous kickoff saw him place the ball at the 10-yard line. This time it was high and to his right.

The spin that normally propels the ball toward the opposite end zone now did the reverse. It came back toward the rushing Lobos. Lot Dutcher recovered the kickoff, and the Lobos were awarded possession.

The offense scored easily on a demoralized Valley Christian team. Quarterback Caden Cantrell again found Baum for a touchdown pass, and the Lobos increased their lead to 27-10.

The defense was stellar once again for Snowflake, and after a sack by Lewis the Trojans were forced to punt.

Brimhall returned the punt for a touchdown, but a penalty called it back. The Lobos wouldn’t be stopped that easily though.

A throw to Tyler Clare put them close enough for a sneaky play that resulted in a touchdown. Cantrell faked the hand-off then threw to sophomore Jett McCray, who had relocated to receive a pass.

The defense continued to ramp up. Lewis got another sack, Tony Munoz swatted down a pass, and Dustin Newby pressured the quarterback into a bad throw. Another turnover for Valley Christian.

Cantrell went on an offensive tear after that. He ran for 15 yards, plowing over a linebacker.

Then he passed to Clare for another 8-yard gain. After that he threw a beautiful pass to Baum for 10 yards and then Baum ran another 15 before being tackled. Next on the list was Eduardo Guevara for 10 yards.

Cantrell got into a bit of a tight spot and was forced to scramble. He ran forward and gained 3 yards. The same situation reappeared right after that and Cantrell responded the same way. He scrambled for a few yards, but came up limping. He hopped on one leg to the sideline and was quickly checked out by the team doctor and trainer. He never entered the game again.

Backup quarterback Easton Butler closed the game by handing the ball to McCray again for a 20-yard touchdown.

Jace LeSueur got an interception on a deep Trojans pass. The Lobos charged down the field for the last time with McCray leading the way on run after run that set up Crockett for a short field goal.

The final score stood 44-10. After scoring three points and allowing 10 in the first half, Snowflake attacked for 41 unanswered points. It felt and looked like a completely different team in the second half.

The question weighing on the Lobo community as a whole is: How bad is Cantrell’s injury? With one game left in the season, is this an injury he will try to hobble through? Or will the offensive leadership mantle fall on Butler?

Butler has shown himself to be a skilled quarterback, and Lobo fans must be relieved to know they have talent prepared to perform. But if Butler is the starter he will unfairly receive magnified criticism for any mistakes. All plays will be looked at with the question: Would Cantrell have done better?

Butler will have to win or face a torrent of backlash that will compare him to an idolized version of the player he will be replacing. This unreasonable expectation forces near perfection and makes it harder for the athlete to move on to the next play by shrugging off errors.

The reality is that the Lobos will either play a Cantrell who is less mobile and perhaps tentative about running, or they will unleash Butler and trust him in the state championship game against Yuma Catholic on Saturday night in Gilbert.

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