After watching Chandler High School roll over Hamilton High in a 50-14 rout Friday night to close out the regular football season schedule, it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t too long ago that Hamilton dominated the cross-town rivalry for more than a decade.
The Chandler Wolves spent a frustrating 15 years trying to put up a single win over Hamilton, which had grown into a state and national power during that time, and lost 17 straight games to the Huskies before finally breaking the jinx four years ago.
Since then, Chandler has been a force of its own.
In 2013, Chandler finally broke through with a regular-season win over the Huskies, but lost to Hamilton in the state semifinals. The next year, the Wolves beat their rival twice, beating them badly on Hamilton’s own field in a 56-24 romp that was later followed by another solid thumping, 28-7, in the state title game.
That 2014 Division I state championship was only Chandler’s second state football title, the first one coming 49 years earlier.
The Wolves continued building their own win streak against their biggest rival, beating the Huskies in 2015 and again last season. And they made a statement with just about every victory. Last year, the Wolves ran up 63 points in a game played once again in front of Hamilton’s home crowd, and this year hung another 50 points on the Huskies.
Perhaps the biggest difference in how Chandler is dealing with its rival in recent years rests with the hire of Shaun Aguano in 2011. He took over a winning program from Jim Ewan that posted a 7-3 record the year before, but began taking it to the next level. His 2013 team hit double-digit wins, going 10-3, and the last three years the Wolves have averaged 12 wins a season.
But, to be fair, Hamilton has been playing with a dark cloud hanging over the program. A much-publicized hazing incident among the football players that resulted in a criminal investigation has had to take a toll on the program, which is under new direction since Steve Belles was removed from the team when the investigation surfaced. It caused an exodus of players who requested transfers to other schools, some of them landing at Chandler High.
It was a stunning development in a program that has long dominated big-school football, winning seven state titles and often earning a national ranking.
But Friday night’s win wasn’t just a hollow victory over a wounded opponent. No one was feeling sorry for the Huskies. Hamilton came into the game with just two losses, averaging 46 points a game, with five games of more than 50 points.
However, Chandler’s defense was up to the task of shutting down a Hamilton offense that averages over 500 yards a game. The Huskies managed just 261 total yards of offense and their top running back, Jahwar Jordan Jr., who had been averaging 150 yards a game, was held to 71 total yards. And Tyler Shough, one of the state’s top QBs, was able to complete just 45 percent of his passes for 173 yards.
On offense, the Wolves used a variety of weapons. Junior quarterback Jacob Conover ran up 361 yards on 19-of-25 passing, senior wide receiver Gunner Romney caught nine passes for 205 yards, and a pair of running backs each added a 100-yard performance. Senior running back Drake Anderson ran for 165 yards and junior DeCarlos Brooks finished with 104 rushing yards.
Conover completed 10 passes for 213 yards in the first half, which enabled Chandler to build an early 29-7 lead that put the Huskies in a deep hole, from which they never escaped.