Ho-hum. Another re-run.
Close but no cigar again for Chandler in its quest to eat the proverbial doughnut off the school's all-time matchup with Arizona Avenue partners Hamilton.
Instead, the Huskies pushed onward and (back) upward in the rankings this week with a 34-18 victory against the No. 6-ranked Wolves on Friday. The fifth-ranked Huskies chalked another notch in the wall with a 17th consecutive win against their neighbors to remain perfect in the all-time series against Chandler.
It was a typical Chandler-Hamilton matchup pregame with both sides bleachers full to the brim an hour before kickoff, temporary bleachers (those seats didn't last long either) and fans stretched the length of the field along the fences.
The pre-game hoopla was in full force, and the in-game play was much the same.
Hamilton began the game with a nod to the Tennessee Titans' kickoff returns, a throw across the field similar to the Music City Miracle playoff game in 2000 and repeated last week in the NFL.
That successful return past midfield led to a Daniel Wickman field goal and an early 3-0 lead for the Huskies. Most of the rest of the night went along the lines of most previous matchups between these schools.
The Huskies controlled the clock with its offensive line and running the ball at the Wolves' defense, mixed in with the occasional play-action fake for completions. Outside four plays, the Huskies defense stifled a powerful Chandler offense and the Wolves made a few too many mistakes.
Even the often mild-mannered and serene Shaun Aguano struggled to hide aggravation afterward, and not just because the Wolves were stopped on four consecutive downs from the Hamilton 1-yard line in the game's final two minutes while they trailed by two touchdowns.
"You can't make physical and mental mistakes against a good team like that," said Aguano, noting penalties and dropped passes as leading culprits to the loss. "We didn't stop them either. It's very, very frustrating."
Hamilton knew the feeling through the first two weeks of the season when the Huskies were 0-2 and the outside world kept asking if their world was crashing down. Instead, A.J. Thigpen threw for 146 yards on 12 of 16 passes and a touchdown, the Huskies ran for 244 yards three touchdowns and only committed one turnover.
"We didn't start (the season) well but coaches kept pushing me and pushing me and I knew the confidence would come," Thigpen said.
It has, namely in wins against Desert Ridge two weeks ago and now the Wolves. Chandler's offense showed what its made of at times as Darell Garretson threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns. The Wolves' talent at the skill positions is unmistakable, as Patrick Baldenegro (four catches for 94 yards including a 70-yard touchdown) showed why he's one of the best tight ends in the state.
Garretson threw to eight different receivers and absorbed a few big hits running the ball, and the San Jose State-commit led an offense which only committed one turnover.
Still, the Huskies' defense was too strong, its tackling to efficient for Chandler to keep coming back. The Wolves kept on making a game of it despite the struggles in stopping Hamilton's balanced offense, but the first-and-goal misery late only punctuated Chandler's inability to sustain drives.
Not having injured running backs Branden Jenkins and Myles Smith most of the night didn't help Chandler, but mental mistakes irked Aguano more than anything.
The game swung late in the first half. Chandler cut the Hamilton lead to 10-6 when Garretson hit Dionte Sykes from 25 yards and Sykes somehow kept both feet in bounds in the back of the end zone. The extra-point was blocked and Hamilton went right back to work on offense. A 43-yard run by Frankie Felix set up Thigpen on a QB keeper
which made it 17-6.
Garretson hit Mitch McCulley for a 37-yard catch-and run down the sidelines to make it 17-12 after a 2-point conversion failed, but the Huskies went 65 yards in the first half's final 25 seconds (most on a 40-yard run by Thigpen) to get another Wickman field goal and make it 20-12 at halftime.
Chandler drove the ball deep into Hamilton territory to begin the second half, but turned it over on downs. Elijah Williams caught an easy 22-yard pass on a Thigpen fake to make it 27-12 and the uphill battle was underway for the Wolves, even after Baldenegro's 70-yard score on a quick pass down the seam.
Hamilton's defense did the rest while the Huskies tried to run out the clock.
"We made a few mistakes but we swarm pretty good," Hamilton defensive back Cole Luke said. "We didn't want to be the team that had the streak (vs. Chandler) snapped. No team does."
Hamilton 34, Chandler 18
Chandler 0 12 6 0 -- 18
Hamilton 10 10 14 0 -- 34
First Downs: Chandler 18, Hamilton 17
Rushing: Chandler 26-86, Hamilton 33-244
Passing: Chandler 25-40-353-1, Hamilton 12-16-145
Fumbles: Chandler 1-0, Hamilton 2-1
Penalties: Chandler 7-45, Hamilton 4-24
Hamilton: Wickman 37 FG
Hamilton: Adams 38 run (Wickman kick)
Chandler: Sykes 25 pass from Garretson (kick blocked)
Hamilton: Thigpen 6 run (Wickman kick)
Chandler: McCulley 37 pass from Garretson (run failed)
Hamilton: Wickman 23 FG
Hamilton: Williams 22 pass from Thigpen (Wickman kick)
Chandler: Beldenegro 70 pass from Garretson (pass failed)
Hamilton: Williams 33 run (Wickman kick)
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.