There are duds and then there is something so out of character it becomes insurmountable.
The Mountain Pointe football team bombed in its first state title appearance Saturday and not the Antonio-Hinojosa-to-Jalen-Brown kind that had become so familiar in this historic season.
No, this was of the where-did-that-come-from variety in a 31-16 defeat to Hamilton at University of Phoenix Stadium in the Division I state title game.
“We didn’t play like we could and Hamilton took advantage every time we made a mistake,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “We didn’t have the ball and when we did we made mistakes. (Hamilton’s) game plan was what we wanted to do.”
Hamilton dominated the first half, partly thanks to a fumble on the Pride’s first offensive possession that saw the Huskies build a 10-0 lead by running 18 offensive plays compared to the Pride’s two in the first 13 minutes of the game.
The Huskies (12-2) started the game eerily similar to the last year’s when it was on the other end of a game that was over before it really started.
“That’s exactly what happened to us last year,” said Hamilton senior linebacker Luke Parrish, who forced Hinojosa’s fumble on the first drive. “It was hard to take last year, but being on this end of it is a heck of a lot better.”
Hamilton, which trailed Desert Vista 14-0 in the first four minutes of last year’s game, marched down the field on the first possession, and then took advantage of the opposition’s turnover and turned them into points just like last year’s defeat, which ended a 53-game win streak.
It was 10-0 Hamilton, which won 12 straight to end the season, and at that point the Huskies had two scoring drives and Mountain Pointe had two offensive plays with three seconds gone in the second quarter.
“They controlled the clock and we turned it over,” Vaughan said. “You can’t win with turnovers and when the other team controls the clock. We can play with them; just not today.”
Hamilton made two plays overlapping the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half to put the game out of reach as the Huskies scored 14 points in 2 minutes and 54 seconds of game time.
The lead pushed to 17-0 at the end of the half when Tyler Eggers made a great catch in the end zone, wrestling the ball after from the Pride defender, with 24 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Pride needed to make a statement to open the second half so the momentum would change, but Levi Sterling, who blocked a field attempt earlier, intercepted Hinojosa and returned it 32 yards for the score, resulting in a 24-0 lead.
The Pride showed the resolve Vaughan-coached teams are known for as they kept pushing Hamilton, closing within 24-9, but that’s as close as they would get.
Much like the crazy loss to Brophy at midseason that came out of nowhere, this loss to a team that has been in the state title 10 times in the last 12 years, including seven titles, doesn’t tarnish what was accomplished on Knox Road in 2012.
The coaches and players will look back on this game with regret and wonder, but when all is said and done no other Pride team has accomplished as much.
The road stops here for a senior class that helped turn the chemistry from combustible and coercive to collected and focused.
As it turned out Hamilton was the state’s best team as it probably should have won Week 1 against the Pride and hasn’t lost since collecting travel miles to Ireland in Week 2.
The Huskies came back from that and slowly matured into a champion. This probably isn’t in the top eight of all-time teams in Hamilton history, but it still came away with a championship ring.
Hamilton’s first appearance in a championship game came in 2001 ended in a difficult loss, but in the end made the program stronger overall to eventually become the big-school power it is now.
Now, Mountain Pointe is challenged to do the same.
“Our kids didn’t quit and made a run at it,” Vaughan said. “We’ve had a great season and a young team. We have a lot of people coming back and we think Mountain Pointe has a great future.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.