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Opener in doubt for Chandler star wide receiver Dionte Sykes

Posted by on August 8, 2013 – 11:25 am

Chandler wide receiver Dionte Sykes suffered a slight fracture when his hand slammed against a helmet at a recent practice and will be out for ‘a couple weeks,’ coach Shaun Aguano said.

The Wolves begin the regular season with a showdown against Peoria Centennial on Aug. 29 and his availability for that game is unclear.

Sykes finished last season with 42 catches for 708 yards and five touchdowns. He verbally committed to UCLA this summer and is expected to be one of the better wideouts in the East Valley. Sykes suffered a meniscus injury in the spring which forced him out of action over the summer, but Aguano said he is fully recovered from that injury.

Fellow wide receiver Mitch McCulley (45 catches, 721 yards, five TD in 2012) also missed the summer with a knee sprain but is now back to 100 percent. If Sykes can’t play early in the season, McCulley will be counted on to carry a heavier load as quarterback Bryce Perkins adjusts to playing quarterback at the varsity level. Perkins has big-time ability, as evidenced by the scholarship offers he garnered from Arizona State and UCLA as a sophomore, but has never started a varsity game under center. He will be the full-time starter, although Aguano said talented sophomore Mason Moran will play a series with the first-team offense during each game to get experience.

In a big change from years past, Aguano said the team will actually be leaning on its defense to do the heavy lifting. The Wolves have long employed an explosive offense but have had trouble slowing down other teams. This year, the defense boasts four players (defensive back J.R. Hunt, defensive back Wesley Sutton, defensive lineman Jordan Hoyt and defensive lineman Cruz Flores) with Division I scholarship offers.

“It’s the first time in the past seven or eight years we might have more athletes on defense,” Aguano said. “The past two years our defense wasn’t strong, so we’ve put an emphasis on putting the best guys on the defensive side.”

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