A boxer needs to takes his opponent’s best shot in the mouth and bounce right back to prove he’s a champion. The current belt holder, Chandler Hamilton, took three blows from defending 5A-II champ Peoria Centennial but never hit the mat, scoring 35 unanswered points to win 35-18.
The Huskies (3-0) looked a shell of last year’s 5A-I title-winning team early, giving up 18 points to start the game, but the early domination was meet with a fury as Hamilton scored three touchdown in the final three minutes of the second quarter to take a lead it would never surrender.
“I felt like I need a pacemaker,” Hamilton head coach Steve Belles said. “That’s a quality football team and it’s too bad they aren’t 5A-I. That would be a great rematch.”
The Coyotes (1-1) got on the board on their first possession after junior John Hughes took the opening kickoff to his own 47-yard line. Five plays later, senior quarterback Scott Burgett hit senior tight end Adam Shipley on a 10-yard strike that quieted the near-capacity crowd at Hamilton.
The silence was deafening on Hamilton’s first place when quarterback Gerell Robinson fumbled on a scramble to give the Coyotes the ball and momentum inside Hamilton’s red zone three minutes into the game.
Two penalties drove Centennial back and kept them out of the end zone but on its next possession, standout senior Jarrell Barbour took a punt return back 71 yards for a touchdown and an early 12-0 lead. The Coyotes made it a three possession game at the start of the second quarter when Burgett connected with Barbour on a 10-yard fade.
With Robinson ineffective at quarterback, the more traditional half of their two-headed throwing system, senior Justin Peters, took over with rave results. After stopping Centennial on a fourth down at the Hamilton 35-yard line, the Huskies drove down field for their first score of the game, a Covaughn Deboskie dive up the middle from two yards out.
Then the snowball began to pick up steam. Two plays later, the Coyotes fumbled the ball and junior Nathan Jeffery scored on an 18-yard option play.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball bounced short of a Coyote returner and junior Dante Alexander recovered the loose ball, leading to another Deboskie touchdown.
The Coyotes mounted a late charge in the final seconds of the half, but what would have been Barbour’s third touchdown of the game was taken away on an offensive pass interference call.
The flag was one of 13 the Coyotes committed during the game, a fact that disappointed Centennial head coach Richard Taylor.
“In four week, we’ll look back and thank these guys for what they taught us,” Taylor said. “They showed us areas that we are weak at and areas we have to improve.”
With the momentum behind them, the Huskies stormed through the second half, picking off Burgett three times and scoring touchdown with Deboskie and Robinson, who caught a 33-yard pass from Peters.
“We learned that we are a team and through perseverance and adversity, we were able to overcome our demons,” Deboskie said. “Once we got that momentum and started to make some impact plays, that’s when we started to really play.”