When Nicco Marchiol made the move to Hamilton ahead of the 2020 season, he sought an opportunity to have a junior season amidst the pandemic and to play at a higher level than what Colorado had to offer.
Now in his senior season after leading the Huskies to the Open Division final in 2020, he’s been given more than just an opportunity to showcase his talents against some of Arizona’s best teams. On Sept. 17, he and the rest of his teammates will be in front of the eyes of millions on ESPNU for its nationally televised game against Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman, who is currently a top-10 ranked team in the country.
It will be the third time in two years the Huskies will appear on ESPN’s network.
“To do this in high school, it’s pretty rare,” Marchiol said. “We definitely have to make the most of it and we are going to be ready. The only thing on our mind is coming out on top on that one.”
Hamilton’s matchup against Saguaro during the 2020 regular season was the first instance the Huskies appeared in front of a national audience last year. A defensive battle through and through, Hamilton ended up beating the Sabercats 13-7.
That game saw the emergence of not only Hamilton as a true Open Division contender with rival Chandler, but then-junior defensive end Russell “Deuce” Davis II made a name for himself on a national stage. He was dominant against a tough Saguaro offensive line, accounting for eight total tackles, three of which were sacks.
He had similar success against Chandler in the final week of the regular season. The Huskies and Wolves matched up as part of the Geico High School Bowl Series with ESPN cameras once again present in the Valley. Davis recorded five total tackles, one of which was a sack in Hamilton’s 34-14 loss to Chandler.
This time around, he aims for similar, if not even more success against Bishop Gorman.
“This game … I prepared for Desert Ridge and prepared for Casteel. But this game, as the time got closer, it’s been all I can think about,” Davis said. “They’re a fantastic team. Their o-line is crazy. It’s a good chance for not just me but our whole team to showcase how good we are against great competition.”
Despite Marchiol and Davis’s aspirations, they and head coach Mike Zdebski know success won’t come easy against the Gaels.
Bishop Gorman features the top three players in the 2022 class out of Nevada. Cyrus Moss, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound defensive end, highlights this year’s group of seniors. On top of his state rank, Moss is the No. 4 defensive end in the country and No. 25 overall prospect, according to 247Sports. Just behind him is 6-foot-2 safety Zion Branch, who holds offers from several Power Five schools including Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and USC. Fabian Ross, a 6-foot cornerback at Bishop Gorman, is the third-ranked player in this year’s Nevada class. He is committed to USC.
The Gaels also have 6-foot-6, 290-pound tackle and Oklahoma commit Jake Taylor, Stanford linebacker commit Benjamin Hudson and Boston College running back commit Cam Barfield. The top four juniors in Nevada also play at Bishop Gorman.
“They’re extremely athletic,” Zdebski said. “They’re big, they’re fast, you know when we inked them to play, they just kept picking up kids. That team has changed so much from when we decided to play them. But regardless, this kind of game is going to make our players better when we get to the end of the season.
“These are the types of games we are going to continue to seek out in the future to make us better as a program.”
Hamilton is not short of fire power itself. Along with Marchiol, a West Virginia commit, and Davis (Arizona), the Huskies also feature the likes of 6-foot-4, 281-pound offensive lineman Grayson Stovall, an Arizona commit, and 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end and Michigan State commit Michael Masunas.
Christian Anaya, a senior wideout who burst onto the scene last season and had nearly 200 yards receiving in the Huskies’ first game against Desert Ridge, also adds fire power to Hamilton’s offense. He currently holds offers from Montana State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado.
Across the board, Hamilton players are looking forward to the opportunity to compete against some of the nation’s best players. But more than anything, they’re setting their sights on a statement win.
“We’re hungry,” Marchiol said. “We definitely play with a chip on our shoulder every game. We won’t be outworked. That’s the mentality we come into practice every day with. If we can get one percent better than our competition down the road or in Nevada, we are always comparing ourselves to the best of the best.”
No matter the outcome of Friday’s matchup, Zdebski hopes his team can help further put Arizona high school football on the map. More than that, it’s an opportunity for every one of his players to grow.
He isn’t concerned with any of them being wide-eyed when the cameras are placed at either end of the end zone and on top of the press box at Jerry Loper Stadium. Many of this year’s starters were in the same position last season.
He just hopes for a strong showing.
“It’s great for our school and great for the kids that play in our program,” Zdebski said. “It’s also great for the state of Arizona. Now, we have to go out there and put a quality product on the field, so we represent Arizona to the best of our ability.
Hamilton’s Week 3 matchup against Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) can be viewed on ESPNU beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online in the days leading up to Friday.