Sometimes, life has to play out before a man arrives at a place he is destined to be.
That happened to Brent Barnes, whose decision to stay in Oklahoma after accepting the Scottsdale Notre Dame football coaching position in the spring of 2015 started a domino effect that shaped the Scottsdale football landscape.
Mark Nolan ended up with the Notre Dame job after another candidate withdrew his name.
During the chaotic time of Notre Dame's hiring search, three players left the Catholic school and ended up at Saguaro, including the Soelle brothers, Kyle and Connor.
Connor is now a defensive catalyst on Saguaro's mostly Division I-recruited defense that will be playing a Chaparral team on Friday night that is led by head coach Barnes and defensive coordinator Mark Nolan.
While Chaparral was scuffling to return to the state's elite under Thomas Lewis, Barnes built his coaching resume at Norman (Okla.) North, where he produced one of the most dynamic offenses in Oklahoma.
With Lewis stepping down to focus on a job outside of football, Barnes became a top target at Chaparral. And the timing couldn't have been better.
The Firebirds are 3-0 for the first time since Charlie Ragle's unbeaten 2010 state championship team.
"I have great faith," Barnes said. "It was a difficult decision a few years ago. It took a while to not get over it but to move on. Again, having an opportunity to be in a great place again, that is the main reason we’re here."
Shortly after Barnes accepted the Notre Dame job, life got in the way of the move. His wife was pregnant. His grandparents, both living in Oklahoma, became ill and they needed help.
"It was a crazy time," Barnes said. "The (Notre Dame) job seemed like a great opportunity and it was hard to pass up. The timing was not right. It was the best decision I could make for my family. I feel extremely blessed that it worked out the way it did for our family. And I was given another chance."
Ironically, it is Barnes' wife who now works at Notre Dame Prep, as a counselor.
Chaparral is happy to have not only Barnes but Nolan, whose fire and expertise on defense is starting to show up on Friday nights.
Barnes is the offensive mind with the big help of offensive coordinator Tim Kohner.
After giving up a lot of yards to Chandler Hamilton, especially to quarterback Brandon Schenks (had a school-record 469 total yards) in a 36-33 overtime win, defense has improved.
In a 35-16 win over Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Chaparral gave up one touchdown and limited the Wolves to 5 yards rushing.
"I feel fortunate to have Mark on our staff," Barnes said. "What he brings to the table is valuable. The kids have really grown the first few weeks here."
Chaparral quarterback Jack Miller (1) attempts to pass the ball before being tackled by Hamilton Derrick Porter (52) during a high school football game at Hamilton in Chandler on August 17, 2018. #hsfb (Photo: Cheryl Evans/azcentral sports)
Meanwhile, the "Buckeye Backfield" of Ohio State commits Jack Miller and Darvon Hubbard has taken off. Miller, one of the nation's top-rated junior quarterbacks, threw for 453 yards, completing 24 of 47 passes, in his season debut.
Last year, Miller threw for no more than 218 yards in a game and threw the ball more than 30 times only once.
Miller has thrown for more yardage than his sophomore season high in all three games this year. He has 936 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Hubbard, who is from Columbus, gives Chaparral a dangerous downhill runner out of backfield. He has 384 yards on 42 carries (9.2 yards a carry) and five TDs.
Junior wide receiver Tommy Christakos might be the team's most valuable player after three games. Christakos is averaging 23.6 yards on 20 catches with four TDs.
If a drive stalls, Christakos is capable of scoring three points with field goals once the Firebirds get past the opposing 40-yard line. He has made a school-record long 53-yarder. In the Hamilton game, he sent the game into overtime with a 43-yard field goal in the last two minutes.
"They're doing a great job to the point now that we feel we can add new wrinkles," Barnes said. "That's the challenge with a new system. When are you ready for that? We're trying to do a few things to build our offense where they're comfortable. They're picking up things really quickly."
GAME OF THE WEEK: Top prospects in the Chaparral-Saguaro game
The Chaparral players know this could be their ultimate test, facing a Saguaro defense loaded with Division I college recruits, led by cornerbacks Kelee Ringo (a top 2020 player in the nation) and Brandon Shivers (San Diego State commit) as well as linebacker/safety Connor Soelle (Arizona State commit).
"We're super excited," Miller said. "This is a big game for us, a big game for our program and we can't wait."
Hubbard feels the electricity that will be felt with the return of the rivalry and an overflow crowd will only bring out the best.
"What better time to have it with big recruits on both sides, to go at it, head to head, to see who is better," Hubbard said.
Scottsdale Chaparral running back Darvon Hubbard. (Photo: Courtesy Chaparral High School)
Both Miller and Hubbard have stayed strong on their Ohio State commitments since coach Urban Meyer was suspended three games over the controversy surrounding what he knew about his former assistant coach Zach Smith's domestic violence against his wife.
"That doesn't affect my decision at all," Miller said. "I've known (Meyer) for so long and I know what kind of person he is. So I'm not concerned about it."
Hubbard isn't worried.
"I always knew we'd be all right with the coaching staff we've got up there," Hubbard said. "Coach (Ryan) Day runs the offense. We always knew we'd be all right."
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