Hamilton is team to beat after historic football upset of Chandler

When Hamilton High ended Chandler’s 45-game winning streak in the final game on the schedule, the No. 2-seeded Huskies took the top seed from the Wolves and will be starting the Open Division state playoffs tonight as the team to beat for bragging rights as the best of the best football programs in the state.

Both teams went through the first nine games of the 2021 season undefeated and speculation continued to mount with each game as to whether Hamilton would be the team to finally end the 45-game winning streak of nationally-ranked Chandler High School, a string of victories that began back in August of 2018.

The 21-14 Hamilton victory seemed especially appropriate since the rivalry that has built through the years has become one of the biggest in the state.  Chandler spent 15 years trying to notch its first win against its cross-town rival, located just four miles down Arizona Avenue, a program that had grown into a state and national power.

However, once the Wolves got over that first-win psychological hump during the 2013 season, they rolled on like a runaway freight train.  Chandler has won the last nine games against the Huskies, including a victory in last year’s Open Division championship game.

The frustration level for Hamilton has understandably been off the charts.  The Huskies have lost just two games over the last two seasons — both of those to Chandler.

So, if anyone was going to take down the mighty Wolves, it only seemed right that it be Hamilton.  And it was.

The Huskies knew it would be one of their toughest challenges of the year, and it followed the script.  Chandler scored first, early in the first quarter, and the Huskies had to play catch-up the rest of the way.

Chandler quarterback Blaine Hipa started the scoring with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Kyion Graves and Hamilton answered with its own score, a five -yard TD pass from QB Nicco Marchiol to wide receiver Christian Anaya.

Hamilton finally broke through in the fourth quarter to get the first lead of the game.  The seven-yard touchdown pass from Marchiol to Tre Spivey in the fourth quarter ended up being the winning score.

If the Huskies are going to get beaten during this run to the title, it will have to be by a team that can figure out how to deal with Hamilton’s aggressive, pass-rushing defense that collected 10 sacks against the Wolves.

The Open Division provides head-to-head competition for the top teams in the top three conferences.  Hamilton, still undefeated at 10-0, opens tonight against American Leadership Queen Creek, which has built an impressive 9-1 record so far.  But ALQC competes in 4A, so the Huskies will likely be favored by at least three touchdowns.

Chandler has drawn Queen Creek HS (8-2) in the opening round, a team that managed to play with the Wolves for three quarters in a meeting during the regular season, but went on to lose, 26-7.  The Wolves will be favored in this one, too, but the margin of victory could be as slim as 10 points.

When the dust settles a couple of weeks from now, expect the Chandler cross-town rivals, both nationally-ranked, to be facing off once again for the Open championship.

Any prediction for that game would have to involve flipping a coin.