There were no repeat champions this year in Arizona high school football, something that hasn’t happened in a decade. But in Division I, it’s actually a return to normalcy rather than a surprise.
No. 3-seed Hamilton High School captured the Division I title with a 31-16 win over Mountain Pointe High School, the top-seed in the playoffs. But it was merely a continuation of dominance by the Chandler school that hit an unexpected bump in the road last year when the Huskies lost in the title game to Desert Vista High School to bring a crashing end to a 53-game winning streak.
They had won three straight titles prior to that stunning 45-19 loss to Desert Vista.
The Huskies, who looked mortal when they opened this season with a pair of losses, have long ruled the roost in big-school football in Arizona. They’ve won five state championships in the past seven years and seven during the past decade. Yesterday’s title win just re-centers the prep football universe.
One of those two losses to start the season was to Mountain Pointe, a 17-14 misstep that added fuel to the fire as Hamilton sought to even the score in the title game.
Hamilton controlled the line of scrimmage yesterday, enabling running back Kevin Walters to pick up 125 yards, more than half of the team’s 226 total. Mountain Pointe dug itself a 17-0 hole in the first half and were never able to climb out.
In Division IV, Blue Ridge High School is just now going through what Hamilton had to experience last year. The little school in Lakeside, up in the White Mountains, has dominated football in the small-school arena for the past few years.
The Yellowjackets won the past two titles and carried a 28-game winning streak into this year’s championship game with Seton Catholic. But the gaudy stats and stack of trophies did little to discourage Seton, which avenged a loss to Blue Ridge in last year’s state semi-finals.
Blue Ridge held a significant advantage in time of possession and more than doubled the number of first downs, but Seton’s quarterback, Ryan Bresnahan, threw for 218 yards and its wide receiver, Daniel Garlid, caught six of his passes for 149 yards to lead the Sentinels to a stunning 28-7 victory.
Seton won a state championship back in 1997, so this wasn’t its first rodeo. But Ironwood Ridge High School, nestled in the small community of Oro Valley just outside of Tucson, climbed the hill for the first time yesterday, winning the Division II title with a 27-3 win over powerhouse Centennial High.
Earlier in the season, Ironwood Ridge upset Centennial, which was then the top-ranked team in the division – and nationally ranked. But they got the win courtesy of six Ironwood Ridge turnovers and barely pulled out a 28-24 win.
But this time, the Nighthawks proved that victory wasn’t a fluke. They turned a slim 7-3 halftime lead into a 27-3 finale, thanks to 148 yards of offense in the second half and an 11-yard interception in the third quarter by Scott Simmons that he turned into a TD and provided the spark Ironwood Ridge needed to roll to the win.
Centennial’s turnover nightmare that cost them the earlier loss to the Nighthawks continued, as the Coyotes coughed up two more yesterday, negating some of the advantage Centennial had in both time of possession and first downs (17-11).
In Division III, it was a totally different scenario as Queen Creek High School and Desert Edge High ground out an uncharacteristic 7-7 tie before a high punt snap resulted in a two-point safety with 12 seconds left on the clock. The 9-7 win capped an undefeated season for Queen Creek which, prior to this encounter, had been running up big numbers and had outscored its opponents by more than 500 points.
Desert Edge used balanced scoring, as quarterback Sawyer Lung completed 11 passes for 105 yards and Kyle Woolard rushed for 119 yards on 25 carries. Queen Creek relied on the run, with Matt Guida carrying 26 times for 160 yards. But that was all it took.