Chandler wide receiver Gunner Romney has made more than a few Arizona defensive backs look silly over the last three seasons.
Rombey has 175 catches for 3,131 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career so there have been plenty defenders wondering what the heck just happened.
One of those catches and touchdowns really stuck out in the season opening win over Red Mountain, especially to Mountain Lions coach Mike Peterson.
He saw Romney rise above Red Mountain cornerback Gerald Wilbon, and two other defenders closing in, snatch the ball out of Wilbon’s grasp for a touchdown.
Live it looked like Romney beat a triple team for a score, but it really came down to Romney made a play and Wilbon didn’t.
“In that moment, Romney was the winner,” Peterson said. “He went up after that ball and he wasn’t going to let anyone else come down with it. It’s something Gerald had in him, but we had to get it out of him.”
It took some time, but Peterson feels like Wilbon has become that player. He had a 102-yard pick 6 against Gilbert that required him to fight off another player – albeit a teammate – in the end zone and then a career game in the first round against Horizon.
It started with a running play that went 80 yards for a score by Lance Lawson that never would have happened if Wilbon didn’t get out ahead of Lawson and take four defensive players out with two separate plays.
He later added a 50-yard pick six and a 40-yard touchdown catch from Cannon Griner.
“It was his breakout game” Peterson said. “He did what Romney did to him against Horizon. Now we can compete. They got a dude and we got a dude.”
Wilbon’s progression has been steady on both sides of the ball as he has taken over as the No. 1 wide receiver – he had five catches for 105 yards with a touchdown in the second-round win over Westview – and he’s been consistent on defense all year long.
“The coaches have been telling me that I can be a bigger asset,” Wilbon said. “It’s changed me. I’ve been showing that. I am more confident now as I get more touches and I started producing.”
On the season Wilbon has 27 catches with 489 yards with most of the damage coming in the second half of the season. All six of his touchdown catches have come over the last four weeks, and 24 of his catches have come since Oct. 6.
“He’s really stepped up and he’s been getting open,” Griner said. “It’s made a big difference with our offense.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder will get a chance to show just how far he has come since that first encounter with the Wolves when No. 7 Red Mountain (10-2) takes on No. 3 Chandler (10-2) and Romney in Friday’s 6A Conference at Hamilton.
“I take it as a personal challenge,” Wilbon said. “It’s a matter of taking the attitude and having confidence that no one is going to beat us when we are playing at our best. That’s the way we all feel about it right now.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.