Are Hamilton, Chaparral facing ‘must-win’ football games?

It feels like an out-of-body experience to open the Sports Section and see that Hamilton High School and Chaparral High are both going into tonight’s games with more losses than wins.

And what’s even harder to believe… both teams could be facing 1-3 records after the dust settles in the morning.

Even this early in the season, that could have serious implications in either team’s ability to climb back up the power rankings late in the schedule.

Chandler’s Hamilton, which was going for a fourth straight big-school championship last season before losing to Desert Vista High School in the championship game, hosts a Desert Ridge High team from Mesa that is 3-0.  And Scottsdale’s Chaparral, which is playing in Division II now, won the last three straight state championships.  The Firebirds have to go on the road to take on undefeated Desert Mountain High School, another Scottsdale school.

(*Update: Hamilton is back, rolling to a 34-14 win over Desert Ridge.  But Chaparral continues to struggle, getting stopped in their final comeback drive just a yard short of the goal line as time ran out to allow Desert Mountain to escape with a 28-21 victory.)

Desert Vista broke Hamilton’s 53-game winning streak in the 2011 title game and the Huskies are having some difficulty get back into their old form as a nationally-ranked program.  Chaparral is under a new head coach this year and has a new quarterback under center for the first time in three years, and has had to depend more on its defense this year as the offense tries to get its footing.

Both Hamilton and Chaparral had blow-out wins last week, with the Huskies humbling Division II Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, 58-0, and the Firebirds dominating Sunnyslope High, 41-9.

They both needed the wins, but neither helped prepare them for the competition they will face tonight.

Desert Ridge, Hamilton’s opponent tonight, is coming off a 42-7 win over Gilbert’s Highland High School – which was undefeated going into the Division I match-up.  A lock-down defensive effort held Highland to just 68 total yards and didn’t allow a score until late in the game when the second unit took the field with a 42-0 lead.

A sophomore quarterback and a senior running back led the way offensively for Desert Ridge – both getting their yards on the ground.  J.J. Husar led the scoring effort with 133 yards and QB Tarek Morrison added 112 yards on 18 carries.  The pair have been extremely productive with their carries, with Morrison averaging more than 11 yards a carry and Husar picking up nine each time.

Chaparral’s opponent, Desert Mountain, is particularly motivated in this game.  The Wolves have taken it on the chin for the past three years when meeting up with Chaparral and have the talent this year to turn the tables.

And they have some momentum after three wins and a crushing performance against Westwood High of Mesa last week.  The Wolves scored on their opening drive, took a 21-7 lead into the half, and piled on three more TDs in the second half for the rout.

The pass-catch combination of junior quarterback Kyle Allen and junior wide receiver Mark Andrews were too much for the Westwood defense, connecting for three scores, as Allen ran his season total to 10 passing touchdowns and Andrews doubled his scoring receptions to six.

And Desert Mountain can score on the ground as well.  Junior running back Adam Cooper is averaging just over 100 yards per game.

While there might be other games tonight that will mean more in the standings, there will be few that will be as critical to the rest of the season as those Hamilton and Chaparral face.

These games might both fit into the  “must-win” category.  Especially for the Hamilton and Chaparral fans.