What happens when 15 goes against six in a highly charged, emotional battle between the two top teams in the state? That’s what a massive, spirited crowd found out Friday night at Hamilton High School as rivals Pheonix Brophy and Chandler Hamilton clashed in a rematch of last year’s 5A-I state semifinals.
Brophy, which won that game and went on to win the state title, returned seven defensive starters, while Hamilton returned eight. Both teams, however, returned only three offensive starters.
As expected, the two talented defenses dominated all night.
Brophy’s defense allowed 288 yards, had two sacks and forced two turnovers. The Huskies’ defense, however, was even more dominant, holding the Broncos to 174 total yards — just 34 in the second half — intercepting Broncos quarterbacks three times and recording a remarkable eight sacks.
In the end, Hamilton made just enough big plays to pull out a 10-0 victory to improve to 2-0.
The only scoring on the night came with less than two minutes to play in the first half. After the teams exchanged punts and turnovers for the first 20 minutes, the Huskies finally broke out.
With the ball on the Broncos’ 36-yard line and Hamilton driving, senior running back Dante Alexander took the handoff, made a move to his left, followed a couple blockers to the outside and sprinted down the sideline for a 7-0 lead.
“It was good blocking by my receivers and my linemen,” said a modest Alexander. “They gave me a chance to take it all the way.”
The score was met with a ferocious uproar, but underneath it all, one could hear a collective sigh of relief from the Hamilton faithful.
The Hamilton defense then forced a quick punt and the offense took over with under a minute to play and 93 yards to go.
The Huskies ran a flawless 2-minute drill that spectators Matt Leinart, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin would have been proud of. As the Cardinals stars watched from the sidelines, the Huskies reeled off runs of 12 and 25 yards and a 16-yard pass to star receiver Drew Terrell. At the 40-yard line with 11 seconds remaining in the half, Terrell hauled in a second 16-yarder, elevating for the ball and landing with both feet just inbounds.
Junior kicker Yannick Metz, who missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt earlier in the half, stepped up and booted a 41-yarder straight and true as time expired, giving the Huskies a 10-0 lead.
“We had a lot of little things break down throughout the game,” admitted Huskies coach Steve Belles, “but we did enough to win. We still have a lot to work on.”
The Huskies’ offense seemed ready to break the game open a few times, including on the first play of the game, when quarterback Zakary Hambsch barely overthrew a wide-open Steven Hansen for what would have been a 71-yard scoring strike.
With the way Hamilton’s defense played, it didn’t matter. Despite missing leading tackler Anthony Jones for disciplinary reasons, the defense made sure those 10 points were all the Huskies needed to avenge last year’s playoff defeat.
While both teams are well aware that the season is still early, Friday night’s defensive struggle served as a good indicator of where the two powerhouses stand among the state’s elite. With defenses that can take over any game, it would be no surprise to see these two teams square off again for the state title.