He’s known as “Mississippi Jones,” obviously because of where he’s from, but on a night in which Chandler Hamilton was on the verge of losing it all, the normally genteel Anthony Jones got greedy.
He gobbled up a late-arriving gift during the Huskies’ 41-26 victory at neighboring Chandler High on Friday night.
It took a series of twists and turns, but Jones’ interception and subsequent sprint wrapped up the Huskies’ perfect Fiesta Region run, a perfect 10-for-10 against the Wolves in Hamilton’s existence and a perfect record against 5A Division I schools this season.
No. 2 seed Hamilton hosts No. 15 Phoenix North Canyon next Friday, while No. 7 Chandler hosts No. 10 Gilbert.
Hamilton coach Steve Belles encouraged his team to enjoy Friday night before he reels them back in for a film session this morning.
It was a struggle — especially in the second half — but that’s inevitable over the course of three-plus months.
“Absolutely it’s a good thing for us,” Belles said of not only winning the final Fiesta Region title, but of hanging in a game which became closer than the score indicated.
“To struggle like we did at times and (Chandler) never quit, I tip my hat to them, and we may see them again.”
Even before Jones’ heroics, the Wolves (7-3, 3-1) were plagued by special-teams mistakes that cost them extra points on kicks and allowed Hamilton juicy field position most of the night.
“Too many breakdowns and that’s disappointing,” Chandler coach Jim Ewan said. “We prepared and covered that stuff. All we can do is watch the film and correct it. … “Hopefully we’ll see them again late in the playoffs.”
A wild night of offense on both sides was churning along when the Wolves’ Taylor Walstad (153 all-purpose yards) ripped off a 26-yard touchdown run and Kyle Yount (344 yards passing, two touchdowns) found Chase Rice for a 2-point conversion, which cut the Huskies’ lead to 34-26 with just less than 11 minutes remaining.
Ryan Milus responded with an 82-yard kickoff return, but Hamilton missed a field goal. Chandler drove the ball downfield again, but turned it over on downs at Hamilton’s 25-yard line.
But the Huskies (9-1, 4-0) fumbled and Chandler recovered, and the Wolves’ quick-strike passing offense started up again. Chandler still needed a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie.
That’s when Jones ran to the rescue.
It was a timing pattern, and the Chandler players’ internal clocks were slightly out of sync, so the skinny 6-foot-2 senior stepped in front of Yount’s pass.
“My eyes got big,” he said.
He ran the other way, dodged one tackle and went 77 yards for a touchdown. The night — and Hamilton’s grip on another region championship — were done.
Jones’ answers ended with “sir,” and a kid with a humble upbringing was willing to give himself a verbal pat on the back en route to the bus.
Plenty of teammates and coaches did the same.
“I always thought about making that play,” he said. “I dreamed all week about doing something like that, making a big play.”