Two questions in, and the writing was on the wall that this conversation wasn’t going to reveal some watershed explanation.
Hamilton’s football players are a savvy bunch, but not even they could qualify how a team wins 39 consecutive games through 2 1/2 seasons.
A 40th in a row and third consecutive 5A Division I championship is the Huskies if they beat one of the season’s good stories in Desert Ridge on Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium. Hamilton should be considered the favorites, as they’ve been every Fall Friday (or Thursday or Saturday) for, well, a long, long time.
Peoria Centennial, Chaparral’s opponent on Monday night and loaded with tradition of their own the past five years, was the last to languish a loss on Hamilton. That was mid-September 2008, after the Huskies began their season by traveling to South Florida to play Booker T. Washington (Miami) and a top-notch Brophy team the next Friday. By week 3, the Huskies were worn thin and eventual 5A-II champion Centennial cashed in.
The only four sophomores from that team are now senior starters, three of whom has only the one loss as starters in their high school careers: Christian Westerman Jr., Tyler Rutt and Cedric Parker.
Not many sophomores crack varsity, let alone the starting lineup at Hamilton.
That’s just one of a dozen advantages Hamilton possesses over most schools in the state when it comes to football. Everyone knows Hamilton came along when the Chandler district was in a population boom. Everyone knows the district has put a premium on athletics — financially and otherwise. Everyone knows the advantages that come without relying on two-way players.
That’s the well-chronicled “macro” view of Hamilton’s decade of dominance. The “micro” in this, is how teenagers who make plenty of mistakes (on and off the field), and sometimes have really bad days, still don’t lose a game?
“Practice is when we have our bad days,” Westerman said. “Come game time, we’re ready. Losing is not an option.”
There have been bad halves this year — notably a 23-21 halftime lead against Glendale Mountain Ridge earlier this season, the most points allowed in a half by Hamilton’s defense during Steve Belles’ five-year coaching tenure (maybe longer). Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) played the Huskies tough to begin the season. So, too, did Avondale Westview.
There have been others recently. Westerman and stud defensive lineman Shaq Jenkins both referenced the Hamilton vs. Chandler game last season, in which the Huskies, “left passes and touchdowns all over the field,” in Westerman’s view.
The Huskies still scored 14 points in the final two minutes and won on a touchdown pass with three seconds left.
Nobody other than Chandler should have won that game.
“Sometimes it’s nice to be lucky than good,” Belles said. “It was a perfect storm in those couple minutes. We’ve been there a couple times (during this streak), no question.”
The Huskies point to selfless attitudes that were mandated after losing to Brophy in a 2007 semifinal slopfest, coaching, and depth in wearing down opponents who have to use two-way players.
“We’re selfless, we see ourselves as a team,” Jenkins said. “Everyone wants to ‘get theirs’ and get noticed and have some personal glory, but everyone is treated the same. If you’re not in it to be part of the team and help win a state championship, you won’t see the field.”
All of which are true.
“That’s a credit to (Belles),” Jaguars coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “I could go there and win, but day after day after day? He’s done a tremendous job.”
All of which still don’t explain how a strange bounce, missed kick, illness, three turnovers, a dozen penalties, worried about a final exam, girl troubles, aurora borealis or another team playing the game of its life, don’t translate to defeat on some freaky Friday.
“We’re all human beings,” Jenkins said. “It’s possible.”
Exactly. Human beings make mistakes, sometimes a few (or many) in the same 3-hour window.
The program raises ire with outsiders for umpteen number of reasons. Some are fair. Some aren’t.
But acknowledge this: Even with all the advantages the district and school have provided the football program, a third consecutive championship would occur because 16, 17 and 18-year-old kids did everything correctly and better than the other guys for a 39th consecutive night.