With one second left, down one touchdown on Hamilton’s 11-yard line, Highland knew it had one chance to force overtime.
In essence, this was a play gifted to the Hawks after the refs added time back on the clock after deciding Highland had gotten out of bounds on the previous play.
That set up Highland sophomore quarterback Gage Dayley for a play that came down to mere inches.
Dayley took the snap and scrambled out of the pocket and toward the end zone. With Hamilton defenders in front of him, Dayley stretched for the goal line but came up just short. Hamilton junior cornerback Zachary Lewis made the game-winning tackle to help the Huskies beat Highland, 31-24.
“We had our chances and we did not make plays when we needed to,” Highland coach Brock Farrel said.
Despite being unable to stretch past Lewis, Dayley played phenomenal in his first test at the varsity level. The sophomore completed 8-of-14 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Running backs Daniel Wood and Max Davis combined for 210 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Hamilton coach Michael Zdebski said that Lewis led his defense throughout the game, but he especially stepped up big on the last Hawks drive.
“Zach Lewis is the one that kept them inbounds, where they had to call that last timeout,” Zdebski said, “and he is the one that made that last tackle on the one-yard line.”
Although the Huskies' defense made the last stop of the game, it was a trio of seniors in Nick Arvay (quarterback), Gabriel Armenta (running back) and Brenden Rice (wide receiver) that got the game going for the Huskies.
Farrel and his team know before the game it would come down to stopping Hamilton’s top playmakers.
“Their (Hamilton’s) quarterback is very talented and does a good job of distributing the ball. Obviously, Brenden Rice is a playmaker,” Farrel said. “We have got to limit his touches and when he does touch the ball, we got to get him on the ground.”
Despite a solid game plan, Highland had trouble controlling Hamilton’s offense out of the gate.
On Hamilton’s first drive, Arvay connected with Rice for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Arvay wasn’t done.
The senior finished with 223 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also completed 26 of his 33 passes, connecting with six different receivers. Armenta rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and Rice caught seven passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
“I think the run game opened up the field,” Zdebski said. “When we can run the ball then the passing game is going to open up because those linebackers are going to have to stay down in the box.”
Arvay credited almost the entire team for the victory.
“Our coaches knew this was a big game and they prepared like this was a big game,” Arvay said. “Linemen and defense, I can give all the credit in the world to them.”
Highland (1-1) looks to bounce back next week against Boulder Creek (1-0), while Hamilton (2-0) looks to stay undefeated against Arbor View (Las Vegas, Nev.)
“We need to limit the penalties and stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Arvay said. “We will be hard to beat if we do that.”
Hamilton: 7 3 14 7 --31
Highland: 0 7 14 3 –24
Hamilton - Nick Arvay 11 pass to Brenden Rice (Fuller kick), 6:02
Hamilton - Collin Fuller 21 FG, 5:22
Highland – Gage Dayley 64 pass Zach Schroeder (Ray kick), 3:10
Hamilton - Gabriel Armenta 12 run (Fuller kick), 7:39
Highland – Daniel Wood 4 run (Ray kick), 7:06
Hamilton - Gabriel Armenta 4 run (Fuller kick), 3:19
Highland - Gage Dayley 61 pass to Tanner Crandall (Ray kick), 0:40
Highland – Jackson Ray 31 FG, 8:28
Hamilton – Nick Arvay 39 pass to Kaden Hattendorf (Fuller kick), 1:05