There’s really no excuse for anyone to miss this year’s high school football championship games. If you can’t make it to Saturday’s title games at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, you can just click on the nearest traditional electronic information disseminator (aka radio, TV).
The Arizona Interscholastic Association just agreed to a two-year deal with Fox Sports Arizona for the broadcast rights for 17 high school title games that cover five sports. Saturday’s Division I game between Hamilton High School and Mountain Pointe High School will be the centerpiece of a slate of games that will include all three of the top divisions.
Fox broadcast last year’s Division I and Division II football championships, but will be adding Division III under the new agreement, which will begin with this year’s title games. The Hamilton-Mountain Pointe game kicks off at noon and will be followed by the Division III match-up of Queen Creek High School and Desert Edge High, and then the Division II game between Ironwood Ridge High School and Centennial High.
And, if you can’t get in front of a TV, Arizona Sports 620 radio will broadcast the Division I game for the first time ever.
The clash between Hamilton and Mountain Pointe has all the components of a battle that should be worthy of live media coverage.
First, there’s the comeback story of Hamilton, which lost in last year’s championship game and then opened this season with two straight losses. But since then the Huskies have gone undefeated and have slowly worked their way back into the kind of team that other schools fear, the team that built a 53-game winning streak before Desert Vista High pulled a stunning 45-19 upset in last year’s title game.
And then there’s the revenge angle. Mountain Pointe beat the Huskies in the opening week of the season by three points.
Mountain Pointe has already exacted its revenge in the semi-final game against Brophy Prep, which has held the No. 1 ranking in Division I for the better part of the season. Brophy rocked the Pride by embarrassing them in a 54-28 victory in September.
But this time Mountain Pointe ended Brophy’s nine-game winning streak by blanking the Broncos, 30-0, to earn a shot at Hamilton.
But neither Mountain Pointe or Hamilton had a chance to get a good tune-up for Saturday’s big game. Hamilton beat Desert Ridge High School, 21-7, in the semis, but the Jaguars were taking on Hamilton with back-up quarterback Brendon Smith at the controls after the starter, Tarek Morrison, was hurt in the quarterfinal game. And Brophy wasn’t at full strength after its star tailback, Marche Dennard, was injured before halftime.
Mountain Pointe was given the top seed for this year’s playoffs and Hamilton is the No. 3 seed. But that won’t mean a thing when the two teams square off in the finals. This one is a toss-up.
There are, however, a couple of things that could influence the outcome.
First, there’s the simple matter that Hamilton has been here before… often. The Huskies have been one of the two teams involved in the title game for the past five years. But for Mountain Pointe, this will be the school’s first-ever appearance in the state football championship game. They may find it difficult to focus under the glare of the spotlight on the biggest stage in high school football.
The other deciding factor could come down to ball possession. Turnovers by either team could help determine which team brings home the gold ball this year.
But you won’t have to remind Hamilton of the latter. The Huskies had a chance to pull out a victory in the season opener against Mountain Pointe, but fumbled deep in Pride territory late in the fourth quarter and Mountain Pointe went on to a 17-14 win.
However, based on the semi-final game with Desert Ridge, Hamilton may not yet have learned that lesson. The Huskies’ senior quarterback, A.J. Thigpen, fumbled twice in the first half, one of which happened on the first play from scrimmage and Desert Ridge wasted no time turning it into a score.
But, take away the title-game experience of the Huskies and limit the turnovers for either team, and you have a game that could go either way.
And that’s what makes Saturday’s Division I game the place to be. Or the game to tune in to.