Chandler Hamilton picked up where it left off the last time it played Mesa Red Mountain in late September.
The Huskies offense used a big second half in subduing Red Mountain in that first meeting but went wire to wire on Friday night in posting a 53-28 triumph in a 5A Division I semifinal game at Gilbert High.
Hamilton scored on its first seven possessions covering a tad better than three quarters of the game. The Huskies amassed 530 yards. Hamilton (12-1) advances to face Phoenix Brophy (11-3), a 27-16 winner over previously unbeaten Mesa Mountain View in the other semifinal, at 8 p.m. next Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium. Red Mountain finished the season 7-6.
“It was a productive game for us,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said. “The important thing is we’re back in the finals. Whoever we face next week, we’ll have to play even better to win.”
Red Mountain entered the game with renewed confidence after a pair of playoff wins and a more productive offense. The Mountain Lions moved the ball via the air on the game’s opening possession, moving to the Huskies’ 37. But on a first-and-10 play, Red Mountain running back Derek Molina had the ball popped loose and Huskies linebacker Justin Rosales recovered.
Hamilton responded with a six-play 64-yard drive capped by the first of three Dante Alexander touchdowns. Alexander scored on a 23-yard scamper for a 7-0 lead with 9:02 left in the period. Alexander finished the game with 21 carries for 135 yards.
Hamilton forced a punt, but took over with terrible field position at its own 5 after a 49-yard punt by Red Mountain.
The poor field position was no problem. A 13-play march ensued that took a bit more than five minutes, capped by Alexander’s second TD (3-yard run) for a 13-0 advantage. The fast start took away perhaps the only edge Red Mountain had coming into the game, which was confidence and momentum.
One difference from the first meeting, however, was the spunk Red Mountain showed on offense this time around. The Mountain Lions, who totaled 330 yards of offense themselves, took advantage of a 50-yard completion from quarterback Derek Mendoza to wide out Cody Saul to set up a 2-yard TD run by Molina and cut the lead to 13-7 with 8:26 left before halftime.
The Red Mountain sideline came alive, but it was quickly doused by more offense from the Huskies. Hamilton tacked on 10 more points before intermission to take a 23-6 halftime lead.
In the first meeting, Hamilton running back Zach Bauman rushed for 149 yards. Bauman took a secondary role as the night statistically belonged to Alexander and quarterback Zak Hambsch
“Our offense played about as well as it could,” Belles said. “We kind of go with what’s working. Dante had a great game, but our O-line blocked tremendously well. That’s why you have a good night.”
That offensive momentum didn’t stop as Hamilton took the second-half kickoff and marched 72 yards in seven plays to make it 30-7 three minutes into the third quarter. Hambsch was 3-for-3 passing during the drive and was 6-for-6 in the quarter. Hambsch finished 17-for-23 for 255 yards and one TD.
“We just couldn’t stop them and they handled us up front,” Red Mountain coach Jim Jones said. “Our kids battled until the end and we did better offensively. But they are tough to stop.”
Molina scored a pair of touchdowns for Red Mountain, including a 76-yard romp in the third period. Molina finished with 157 yards on 20 carries. Saul caught five passes for 110 yards and a TD.