Hamilton held a 10-0 lead and was less than a quarter away from its first state championship on that chilly Saturday afternoon in 2001.
Then Red Mountain rallied to score the final 13 points of the game and snatch the title away from the Huskies.
The loss was devastating for Hamilton’s seniors, especially quarterback Joey Vincent. But the team’s five sophomore starters, including Joey’s younger brother, Adam, took the loss about as well as could be expected.
"As sophomores, we knew we had two more years left, so we looked at it as a learning experience," said Adam Vincent, now a senior. "It wasn’t really our team. We were on it, but we were only sophomores. We looked at it more like it was the seniors’ team."
Just as that Hamilton team belonged to seniors like Joey Vincent, the 2003 Huskies belong to the five seniors who started as sophomores.
Over the last three years, Vincent, running back Tramell McGill, defensive lineman David Smith and safeties Myrio Davis and Brandon Robertson have won 36 of the 40 games their team has played.
Each is a team captain this year. But according to coach John Wrenn each has his own leadership style. Robertson and Davis provide vocal leadership, while Smith and McGill allow their play to speak for them. Vincent does a little bit of both.
"Some of them are (vocal) and some of them aren’t," Wrenn said. "They’re all different types of leaders. But they’re our captains, our team leaders. They’re everything."
Their leadership styles may vary, but they are all motivated by the same thing.
If the Huskies have any sort of intangible advantage over the Toros in Saturday’s 5A state championship game, it’s the fact Mountain View doesn’t know what it is like to lose a state championship.
Hamilton’s seniors know that feeling all too well after the 2001 title game meltdown.
"That was the hardest part. We should have won," Davis said.
"We celebrated before the game was over," Vincent said.
That game wasn’t the only time Hamilton was stung by a tough loss.
The Huskies lost to Mountain View in a state semifinal match last year that essentially served as the state championship game. Mountain View went on to pummel over-matched Glendale Ironwood by 42 points one week later.
"It was (like the championship game) but then it wasn’t," Smith said. "Let’s just say we knew that whichever team won that game would have the easy road to the state championship."
The Huskies seniors are determined not to experience that feeling again.
To that end, they have been drilling into their younger teammates’ heads the urgency that must accompany every playoff game.
"We tell (our teammates) every week, ‘Don’t make this our last Monday practice. Don’t make this our last Tuesday practice,’ " Vincent said after practice Tuesday night. "Well, this is our last Tuesday practice and this is our last game. So we want to make it our best game."