Year after year in Arizona prep football, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before Hamilton High School gets to the top of the heap – if it didn’t already start there.
You could see it coming this year as far back as early summer when Hamilton won the AIA 7-on-7 passing competition in a field of 30 high school teams from around the state and California. And then beat the field in the Big Man strength competition for linemen.
Yep, you could see it coming even back then. Although Chandler High was the preseason pick to win it all, Hamilton is always…. well, Hamilton.
It took five weeks this season to climb the mountain, but the nationally-recognized power from Chandler is now the No. 1 team in Division I (azcentral) after upsetting Mountain Pointe High School, which has occupied that spot since the season began. The 30-10 victory adds to a mind-numbing Hamilton streak of 64 straight wins at home.
The Huskies, who played their first three games on the road, have been waiting in the weeds, perched at No. 3 in the Division I rankings for the first four weeks. They have outscored their opponents 172-58 while running up a 5-0 record – although they had to squeak past No. 4 Pinnacle High School in the third game of the season, edging out the Pioneers, 37-35.
But against top-ranked Mountain Pointe, the Huskies jumped out to a 30-10 lead by the end of the first half and then locked the game down with its defense in the second half. Neither team was able to score after halftime.
Mountain Pointe looked in control early, driving 80 yards for a touchdown to go up 7-0. But that turned out to be something of a mirage.
Hamilton capitalized on a couple of blocked punts that were turned into scores and the defense contributed a pair of interceptions to stifle the normally-potent Mountain Pointe offense. A 25-yard touchdown pass from James Sosinski to Brandon Krcilek just before the half ended closed out the scoring.
Part of the Pride’s inability to move the ball was the result of playing without star running back Paul Lucas, who moved to the sidelines after the team’s first possession to nurse a sprained ankle.
So how big was this game? It broke a 19-game winning streak for Mountain Pointe. And, for Hamilton, it meant the monkey was off its back for the time being. Mountain Pointe had beaten the Huskies three out of the last four times they met, the most frustrating of those last season when the Pride beat them in the state championship game.
But the Huskies are jumping from the frying pan into the fire this week when they play host to city-rival Chandler High, the No. 3 team in Division I.
The Wolves are 4-1, thanks to a loss to Mountain Pointe. But they’ve dominated in the easy games and found it much more difficult against the better teams. In addition to their 45-42 loss to Mountain Pointe, they beat Centennial High, the No. 2 team in Division II, by just four points – and needed a Centennial fumble in the game’s final minutes to secure the win.
Chandler has a score to settle with the Huskies, who blocked their path to the state title last year by handing the Wolves a 21-17 loss in the semi-finals. But this year may be their year and were positioned as the favorite to win it all in the preseason.
But this rivalry has been a story of dominance since the two teams began playing each other in 1999. When Chandler beat Hamilton, 26-16, in the regular season last year it was the first-ever win over the Huskies. According to the good folks at CTownRivals.com, Hamilton holds a 583-197 edge in the scoring over the years and has beaten the Wolves by an average of three touchdowns a game.
The Wolves are a better team this year than perhaps any time in the past, with a three-headed scoring attack of dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins, one of the best running backs in the state in Chase Lucas, and a big-play receiver in N’Keal Harry. The offense is averaging 40 points a game.
However… Mountain Pointe ran up 404 yards rushing in the first half alone when the Pride beat Chandler a couple of weeks ago. When the dust settled, the Pride had two running backs that ran all over the Chandler defense, each finishing with more than 200 yards rushing and combining for six touchdowns.
And that’s the team Hamilton just crushed by 20 points.
It’s not unfolding in quite the way it was expected in the preseason predictions. This was supposed to be the Chandler team that had a good shot to win the first-ever state title in football.
And it still can be. But Friday night it will have to prove its worthiness by first dealing with an old nemesis.
Should be a great game.