Tears were shed by several players at Coronado High on Saturday, Nov. 23 as the turnaround Hamilton football season came to a close with a 20-16 loss to Saguaro in the Open Division semifinals.
The Huskies are a year removed from a troubling 3-7 season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in program history. However, with many of the same players and coaches, Hamilton righted the ship and went 8-2 in the regular season, 9-3 including two games in the newly-formed Open Division.
Junior quarterback Gavin Goulette, who entered the game late when senior Nick Arvay was injured, said the community was questioning the team all offseason. But, a semifinal berth in the state’s top playoff bracket confirms the Huskies’ notion in their locker room that things would be alright.
“We put our heads down as soon as we didn’t make it last November, and worked to see what we could do. So, to get to this point is just amazing,” Goulette said.
Goulette’s pass on fourth-and-goal in the final seconds of the game fell incomplete due to an immense Saguaro pass rush, and the black-clad Saguaro defense celebrated the win. It was the first time the Sabercats had truly been tested since Halloween against Chaparral.
The semifinal score is the first close game Saguaro’s played since an 18-10 loss to San Diego Cathedral Catholic on Oct. 31, the team’s second game of the season. Hamilton senior Brendan Maslin said the loss was a “tough pill to swallow,” but even playing the Sabercats close and having a chance to win at the end is a cause for celebration.
“They, with their six titles in a row, saw some competition tonight. I know for a fact they felt us, and now everybody knows what we’re made of,” Maslin said.
Hamilton’s defense was able to shut down one of the state’s most prolific offenses, at least more than the other competition Saguaro has faced in 2019. 20 points is the lowest Saguaro scored against an Arizona team since putting up 12 against Pinnacle High in 2015. The Huskies started a few freshmen and sophomores on that side of the ball.
Hamilton’s freshman and junior varsity rosters also boast several talented players, who merely did not make the varsity roster because of the talent of the older and more experienced Huskies. While some of the state’s top talent at the offensive skill positions will graduate – Arvay and receiver Brenden Rice were among the highly-regarded players at their positions this season – the defense will likely be a strength moving forward.
“We’re going to be back every year. We’ve got four years of talent, way more players that are good on the younger teams,” said freshman cornerback Cole Martin. “It’s going to be a bright future on defense and offense too.”
It will take some time to heal the wounds from the loss, and many will never have a chance for revenge at all.
For seniors like Maslin, there will be no more Husky football to be played. However, the massive turnaround in record and team spirit constitutes, in his mind, something the graduating players can be proud of.
“Going from 3-7 to now, we set a legacy for Hamilton,” Maslin said. “I know the next junior class are going to step up as leaders, and the ones coming up are set because of what this year’s team accomplished.”
“The Hamilton Huskies are back.”