Hamilton entered its season opener against Chaparral with a chip on its shoulder after losing to the Firebirds in overtime at the start of last year.
The Huskies wanted redemption, and they used a well-rounded offensive attack and strong defensive play to get it.
Led by a trio of seniors in quarterback Nick Arvay, running back Sebastain Dorman and wideout Brenden Rice, Hamilton jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in its 44-21 victory over Chaparral on Friday night in Scottsdale.
“We used what happened last year as fire,” Arvay said. “Our leaders, Jeremiah (Trojan), Brenden (Rice), Sam (Winegarden), they all told us this was a statement game. We wanted this one.”
Arvay and the rest of the offense came out firing on all cylinders during their first possession, as he hit Rice for a 67-yard completion. The long pass set up senior running back Domynic Hilton for a 2-yard score.
Hamilton’s defense was tasked with slowing down a potent Chaparral offense led by senior quarterback and Ohio State commit Jack Miller, as well as junior running back Jared Williams.
However, the Firebirds were without two of their top targets as senior wideout Tommy Christakos and tight end Jack Halsten were both sidelined with injuries.
The short-handed Firebirds had trouble finding any type of rhythm on offense, as Hamilton’s stout defensive line flushed Miller out of the pocket on multiple occasions throughout the night. Miller was able to use his elusiveness to avoid being sacked several times, but strong coverage from Hamilton cornerbacks Cole Martin and Zachary Lewis provided few windows of opportunity for the Firebirds to move the ball down the field.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Hamilton coach Mike Zdebski said. “Our defensive coaching staff is as good as any. They work extremely hard and their preparation, I think, led to the performance tonight.”
Despite constant pressure from Hamilton’s defense, Miller managed to orchestrate several drives and finish the night 16-for-23 for 220 yards and a touchdown. Two other drives set up scores for Jared Williams, who was limited to just 56 yards on the ground despite 2 touchdowns.
While Chaparral’s offense struggled, Hamilton’s flourished.
Arvay picked apart Chaparral’s secondary, completing 16 of his 20 pass attempts for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns. Dorman also finished with a pair of scores to go along with his 113 yards rushing.
“When you have the dynamic of being able to run the ball inside (with Sebastain) while having a quarterback that can run and throw, it makes it difficult on opposing defenses,” Zdebski said. “It sometimes makes them play in a way they don’t want to.”
It was an all-around dominant performance by Hamilton (1-0) to open the season, and it’s one that gives them confidence heading into a showdown with Highland (1-0) next week.
Chaparral (0-1), meanwhile, will look to bounce back against district-rival Desert Mountain (0-1) next Friday.
“We just have confidence for next week and we hope to get it for the next week and the next week after that,” Arvay said. “We want to keep it going.”
Hamilton 44, Chaparral 21
Hamilton 13 3 14 14 - 44
Chaparral 0 8 6 7 – 21
Ham – Hilton 4 run, 10:52
Ham – Dorman 5 run (Fuller kick), 6:15
Ham – Fuller 25 kick, 9:33
Chap – Williams 19 run (Miller 3 pass to Minor for 2 pts), 6:27
Ham – Dorman 9 run (Fuller kick), 10:46
Ham – Hattendorf 12 pass from Arvay (Fuller kick), 6:12
Chap – Williams 5 run, 1:45
Ham – Rice 43 pass from Arvay (Fuller kick), 10:09
Ham – Lewis 7 run (Fuller kick), 7:14
Chap – Hamilton 19 pass from Miller (Bollinger kick), 2:31