Will the 17th time be a charm?
This “rivalry” record currently stands at 16-0 in favor of Hamilton, but the agony which has come from the north side of Arizona Ave. has worn down in the past couple years.
Chandler senses it’s ready to make its move and win one of these intra-district matchups for (literally) once.
Of course, the Wolves felt that last year, when they led 21-13, then lost quarterback Darell Garretson and (temporarily) receiver Javon Williams to injuries, lost four fumbles in the fourth quarter and lost the game.
The Wolves also felt that way in 2009, and played like it until Hamilton scored 21 points in the fourth quarter — including 14 in the final 1:48 — to win, 28-24.
Whether on national TV or nowhere to be found in the broadcast universe (like this year’s matchup), there’s no shortage of storylines, matchups, intrigue or questions heading into this week, including how early should you arrive if you want a seat?
Answers, however, have left Hamilton laughing last, but despite the Wolves’ misfortunes of last week and yester-year, Chandler doesn’t see residual effect this time around.
The sting of last week’s overtime loss to Mountain Pointe lingered, but not for long, thanks to this matchup a week later.
Given the 10-point deficit they erased in a win against Basha, and their performance even in defeat against the Pride, performance, talent and perseverance is a three-pronged combination floating through Chandler’s locker room.
“It hurt us on Saturday and they turned it off and eventually let it go,” Wolves coach Shaun Aguano said of last week. “Our kids are pretty confident.”
When it comes to athletes and a high-octane offense, Chandler has ruled the roost, and it’s much the same this year with Garretson, Branden Jenkins, Myles Smith, Dionte Skyes, Patrick Baldenegro and Bryce Perkins.
The Wolves’ passing game is among the state’s elite, but an emerging running game and a defense the Wolves feel is among the best they’ve had is what’s helping fuel the optimism.
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s 0-2 start to 2012 was a barrrage of turnovers and poor execution on offense, but having Cole Luke play both ways and quarterback AJ Thigpen’s play in the past two weeks helped the Huskies get on track.
The Huskies scaled back the playbook and player responsibilities significantly after the troubling start, and took a step forward in a big win against Desert Ridge two weeks ago.
The team’s turnover margin went from minus-7 to plus-2 in the past three weeks, and with it came a three-game winning streak. But the Huskies get a three-games-in-four-weeks guantlet in Chandler, Desert Vista and Basha.
“We’re not turning the ball over. We’re getting first downs and scoring in the red zone. What do you know? We’ve won three games,” Huskies coach Steve Belles said. “It’s not that tough a game if you don’t make mental mistakes or turnovers. You win 90 percent of those games. I don’t think we’re even close to where we’ll be at the end of the year (offensively). As long as you keep making improvements we’ll be in good shape, which we are.
“We had to cut back so much on our offense to be effective, we’ll slowly implement more and more in the coming weeks to get us up to speed.”
Can Hamilton’s defense contain Chandler’s offense? Can Chandler stop Hamilton’s running game? Will someone(s) find a new way to skin the proverbial husky? Or create a new scenario that skins the proverbial wolf?
Time to turn the corner.
“Who will put the ball on the ground? Who will make mistakes?” Aguano said. “I’m glad we’ve had three games not as physical as these three we’re currently in. It’s going to be tough.”
“It’s not the most talent that wins,” Belles said. “It’s the best team that wins.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.