Week of miracles: Add Hamilton HS football to the list

Last Saturday night, the Northern Arizona University football team stunned the Arizona Wildcats by winning its first game against the Pac-12 school since 1932 (Sept. 19 Phxfan article).  The shocking victory rocked the college football world.

But the day before, Hamilton High School pulled off a feat that was equally impressive, a ‘miracle’ of a comeback effort that kept the Huskies undefeated — and a game that will be remembered for a long time to come.

So, when the Huskies (3-0) travel to Peoria tomorrow night to take on Centennial High (1-2), they will be going into that game with a sense of renewed confidence that they can handle anything thrown at them.  They have already pulled off what will have to be the biggest comeback of the 2021 season.

That 25-24 win also moved them into the No. 18 spot in the MaxPreps national rankings.  Hamilton had entered the game ranked No. 26 by USA Today, so the upset of No. 7 Bishop Gorman, a perennial national power, gave them a big boost in the national rankings — and helped validate Arizona’s rise on the national stage.  The week prior, Open Division state champion Chandler HS defeated national power, Cherry Creek HS, a Colorado power that was coming off back-to-back state titles and on a 25-game winning streak.

But Hamilton’s incredible comeback would have been a national story, regardless of who the opponent had been.

The 18 unanswered points against a team like Bishop Gorman was just the headline.  The meat of the story was the two onside kick recoveries for scores in the final minute of the game.  The height of the drama came when Huskies’ quarterback Nicco Marchiol connected on a 22-yard TD pass to sophomore running back Nick Switzer to cut the Gorman lead to a single point — with eight seconds left on the clock.

By that time, unfortunately, the stands had begun to empty as the game appeared out of reach.

And then the final credit went to head coach Mike Zdebski, who decided a tie wasn’t good enough and drew up a play for the two-point conversion to capture the win.  Marchiol, who was battered and bruised from six sacks and constant pressure throughout the game, took on the job of getting the ball into the end zone.

Taking the snap from the shotgun at the three-yard line, Marchiol rolled left and didn’t stop until he passed the goal line.

The supporting cast in the final-minute drama included kickerJacob Medina, who delivered two consecutive on-side kicks that resulted in scores, and tight end Michael Masunas, who scored on a two-yard pass to cut the lead to 24-17.

In addition to the full house on the field, the game was also viewed by a national audience on ESPNU.  The stage had been set for a prime-time performance.

And the Huskies delivered.  In a way that no one could have expected.