Hamilton beats Chandler

Hamilton knocked off rival Chandler in the Battle for Arizona Avenue, putting an end to the Wolves' 45-game win streak.

The Battle for Arizona Avenue has always been a rivalry with emotions running high and vital implications to the 6A rankings. In recent history, it has been an even matchup, with both Chandler located powerhouses alternating domination in Arizona since 2000. This year proved to be much of the same as it was a close game throughout, with Hamilton prevailing in the end, 21-14 to snap the Wolves’ 45-game win streak.

Chandler had been on a tear in the rivalry, winning the last nine matchups against Hamilton. Before that run, Hamilton burst onto the scene in Arizona high school football, winning 13 straight games against the Wolves. Now, the programs find themselves in less than familiar territory, both ranked nationally in the top 15 fighting to take over the city of Chandler.

It had a big-time feel to it from the start. Chandler began the night adamant about being physical, and it took Hamilton a little while to catch up to the intensity.

“Being physical from the start is big time. It means they may be more scared of us towards the end of the game. You have to get the first hit,” Hamilton wide receiver Christian Anaya said.

Field position was huge tonight for both teams, as Chandler got the ball close to midfield both times they scored in the first quarter.

The first touchdown of the game came from the arm of Blaine Hipa, who connected on a 56-yard bomb to Ohio State commit Kyion Grayes. Less than two drives later for the Wolves, Hipa found Quaron Adams for the long 50-yard score.

In between those scores for Chandler, Hamilton answered with a touchdown pass of its own. Anaya set the Huskies up with great field position on a punt return and finished the drive with a 5-yard score, coming from quarterback Nicco Marchiol.

The key to the offense getting on a roll according to the Husky quarterback was pounding the inside zone and running the ball effectively. After that, he can spread the ball around.

“Guys like Christian Anaya, and Tré Spivey, there’s no one else I’d rather go get the ball from me than those two,” Marchiol said.

Nick Switzer had been one of the main focal points in the Hamilton offense this season, yet only carried the ball four times. Whether that was due to injury or a matchup problem was not disclosed, but junior running back Logan Krei took advantage of the opportunity.

With just a few minutes remaining in the first half, Krei took the handoff from Marchiol and slipped a few tackles before getting into the endzone from 16 yards out. The Huskies relied on Krei to move the sticks a lot in the second half, as he finished the night with 12 carries for 98 yards and the lone touchdown.

Halftime adjustments were everything in this matchup. Marchiol set to be more efficient, started running quick pass plays. Anaya was a big part of helping his quarterback settle down.

“Yeah, slants, outs, one step passes, everything we did helped us win,” Anaya said.

The second half was filled with two defenses that did not want to be the ones who gave up the score that broke the tie. Every play all 11 defenders found their way to the ball. In the first two quarters, field position was the deciding factor on who scored. In the final 24 minutes, field position was about who did not score. Who did Hamilton coach Mike Zdebski credit that with? Punter Roch Cholowsky.

“You saw Roch’s punts, he created all that field position for us, I think he’s the best punter in the state,” Zdebski said.

He was less enthused about his kickoff coverage team, as he says they were the reason Chandler started with great field position in the first half. But it is something that they will be working on this week.

Getting down to the red zone was tough for both teams, as long drives were hard to come by all night, which was why there were two huge turnovers that decided the game.

Hamilton got into scoring position and before it could even kick a field goal, Chandler’s Amar Elmore recovered a fumble by the Huskies.

Immediately following, Chandler lost a fumble of its own, recovered by Dawson Hubbard. Before getting the ball back, Zdebski credits his player’s experience for not getting too high or too low when things like that happen.

“That’s what they’re used to, they are very levelheaded. On to the next play,” Zdebski said.

Marchiol took advantage of being gifted the ball back so soon, hitting Spivey for a 7-yard touchdown. This scoring play broke the tie for the first time in the second half and ended up being the decider in this unbelievable rivalry.

It was also Marchiol’s second touchdown pass of the night, finishing with 79 yards passing on 12 of 19 attempts. The West Virginia commit also added 24 yards rushing on 11 carries, however, most of those were Chandler defenders chasing him out of the pocket

Hamilton continued to be stifling on the defensive end. As Chandler had one last chance to put together a game-tying drive at the end, but the Husky defense stood strong and sacked Hipa three times in a row, capping off a stunning victory in the Battle for Arizona Avenue.

Zdebski was not surprised with how his team stuck together till the end, finishing the regular season undefeated was just one of his goals.

“This is where we want Hamilton to be. This was the expectation when I took the job, it’s a part of the job requirement,” Zdebski said.

Marchiol had the utmost respect for the very tough team in Chandler that they just beat.

“I think the speed they have upfront and the type of playmakers they have upfront make it so hard for a fast offense like us to be successful,” Marchiol said.

It also helps him make more sense of why the first half was such a struggle, as he was sacked many times throughout the whole game. However, it was the Hamilton defense that ended the game by getting to the quarterback, they racked up 10 sacks of Hipa, the main reason they held the Wolves to zero points after the first quarter.

Marchiol, getting his first win in this matchup, had a problem even breaking down how it feels to finally get it done.

“It’s indescribable. Knowing the history of these schools, to do it at home in front of our crowd,” Marchiol said. “You can’t describe it, this is what I’ve been thinking about since I was a sophomore.”

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