The last time Hamilton lost a home football game, George W. Bush was on the verge of being reelected as President.
Since October 2004, the Huskies have been perfect under the lights at Jerry Loper Field, but that record was severely tested Thursday night by Pinnacle.
The Huskies trailed by three heading into the fourth quarter, but in the end they overcame a series of injuries to standout lineman Casey Tucker and multiple wide receivers, and made enough plays late to pull out a 24-20 win.
“It was a great football game,” said Hamilton coach Steve Belles. “Let’s give Pinnacle some credit, they played a great game, I thought Dana did a great job with their team.”
The defenses dominated early, as the game was scoreless after the first quarter. Hamilton (3-0) turned the ball over on downs on its first two possessions while the Pioneers punted. Early in the second quarter, Pinnacle kicker Ben Sweet hit a 24-yard field goal to put the Pioneers up 3-0.
Hamilton (3-0) responded with a 72-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Tyrell Smith 1-yard touchdown run. Smith finished the game with 104 yards on 22 carries as Hamilton took a 7-3 lead into halftime.
After Pinnacle senior Tyler Townsley took the second-half kickoff down to the Hamilton 41-yard line, junior quarterback Brian Lewerke finally found a rhythm. Lewerke led his team down the field and the Pioneers found the endzone on a Josh Hoekstra 1-yard touchdown run.
Hamilton responded and marched 80 yards for its second touchdown of the night, a 5-yard run by senior Jerrion Acles. Pinnacle came right back and took a 17-14 lead when Lewerke hit Daniel Galindo for a 15-yard touchdown with six seconds left in the third quarter.
“We got down a couple times and I thought our kids responded,” said Belles. “That’s what you want to see, to see where they are when they are tested, that’s the measure of a team.”
Hamilton took the lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter when Frankie Bueno took a handoff and went 62 yards for a touchdown to put Hamilton ahead 21-17.
On Pinnacle’s next drive, Ben Sweet hit his second field goal of the game with 9:20 left to pull Pinnacle (2-1) within 21-20.
But Hamilton was too much in the final minutes. After its defense forced a punt with 3:55 left in the game, Hamilton ran for two first downs, including converting on third-and-5 to put the game away.
Pinnacle dropped its first game of the season, but Zupke believes he has a lot to work with. Despite starting 0 for 6, Lewerke finished the game 17 of 29 for 122 yards and a touchdown. Hoekstra finished with 83 rushing yards on 19 carries.
"Tonight we battled to the end, I am so proud of my boys,” said Zupke. “I think we have a lot of stuff to build on.”
Hamilton 24, Pinnacle 20
First Downs: Ham 18, Pin 15
Rushing: Ham 38-234, Pin 36-162
Passing: Ham 10-21-164-1-0, Pin 17-29-122-1-1
Fumbles-Lost: Hamilton 1-1, Pin 0-0
Penalties-yards: Ham 4-29, Pin 4-40
Pinnacle 0 3 14 3 - 20
Hamilton 0 7 7 10 - 24
Pinnacle: Sweet 24 FG
Hamilton: Smith 2 run (Brown kick)
Pinnacle: Hoekstra 1 run (Sweet kick)
Hamilton: Acles 5 run (Brown kick)
Pinnacle: Galindo 15 pass from Lewerke (Sweet kick)
Hamilton: Bueno 62 pass from Sasso (Brown kick)
Pinnacle: Sweet 23 FG
Hamilton: Brown 30 FG