The three-year ascension of Hamilton's boys soccer program continues, but the next step has proven elusive.
That's mostly because of Brophy.
Hamilton has earned its way to this final match of the season on the big stage for a third consecutive year. Twice before, juggernauts (Corona del Sol in 2010, Brophy in 2011) halted that progress, with both matches ending 1-0.
Hamilton again faces Brophy, a team that's beaten Hamilton by one goal in four consecutive meetings, including last year's championship.
"We're hoping to win one," Huskies coach Nick Markette said. "Hopefully this is our year. Some say the third time is a charm."
The Huskies are here again. So, too, is Brophy, and while it might be a rematch from last year's state championship match, in many ways that only applies to the name on the front.
Though they've looked far from it during the final week of the regular season or this state tournament (one goal allowed in the playoffs), this is Hamilton's youngest of the three title-match squads with two sophomores starting and six who receive substantial playing time.
The kingpin of this balanced-scoring, defensive squad (17 shutouts this season) has been senior forward Danny Arrubla, who set a school record for goals in a season (40) with a couple against Phoenix Carl Hayden in the quarterfinals (he didn't play the first-round match because of illness). He single-handedly shredded Chaparral's defense with four goals in Wednesday night's semifinals victory.
He also missed three matches during the regular season because of injury.
"The big thing we've seen from him is that he's emerging as a leader and someone who can set the tone amongst the boys," Markette said. "His maturity as an individual has been a delight to watch, really nice to see."
Hamilton has six players who've scored at least six goals this season.
The Broncos counter Hamilton's solid goaltending (Kiyan Pirgheybi) and its top playmaker (Arrubla) with Nate Sundermeier in net and Riggs Lennon up front.
Lennon unofficially leads the state in scoring (50 goals) and has two match-winning goals in overtime (vs. Gilbert in quarterfinals and Tolleson in semifinals).
The powerful lefty draws the bulk of attention from everyone (and Hamilton), but the Huskies know they can't afford to lose sight of David Lane, Ian Poblete, Clarence Clark and Chad Ahrensdorf (who recently returned from a concussion).
Lennon scored the game-winner against Tolleson, but the Broncos' two-goals-in-30-seconds that turned a 2-0 deficit into a tie late in the second half was the product of Lane, Clark and a couple nifty set-up long passes.
"Usually when you keep putting pressure on a team, good things are going to happen," Broncos coach Marc Kelly said. "Even in the face of being down 2-0 and being six feet under they didn't give up. They kept on working hard and the chances and opportunities come because of that."
The Huskies know that feeling, but in their pursuit of fun during these precious championship opportunities, there's also the part about removing "opportunities," and, instead hoisting the school's first boys soccer championship.
To do so, they'll have to earn that final step by getting through a program they seek to become themselves.
"They've been the most consistent program, along with Gilbert, in the last 10 years," Markette said of Brophy. "We'd like to crack into those ranks as a soccer school in Arizona."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.