That clean sweep of defending state champions came to an abrupt end Friday night. Centennial, No. 1 ranked in 5A Div.-II, made sure of that with a convincing 35-16 home victory over 5A Div.-I No. 1-ranked Chandler Hamilton.
Having already beaten a defending state champion out of Florida and defending 5A-I champion Phoenix Brophy last week, the Huskies were going after their third champion in the Coyotes, who have won the 5A-II title in each of the last two years.
Centennial had more size and more speed than the Huskies and they used it on both side of the football to get their second straight win to open the season.
“They were the better team tonight,’’ understated Hamilton coach Steve Belles.
The Coyotes (2-0) exposed what looks like a limited Hamilton offense and it’s not the first time this season the Huskies have struggled to score points. Hamilton did win last week, but it was by a 10-0 score against Brophy. Friday, the offense had one scoring drive longer than 26 yards and it resulted in a field goal.
Hamilton had a first-and-goal situation at the Centennial 3-yard line and could gain no more than a yard in three rushing attempts before settling on a 24-yard field goal by Yannick Metz.
Hamilton (2-1) had just 44 yards rushing on 24 attempts. Of course, it must be noted that the Huskies aren’t exactly playing average teams to open the season.
What the Huskies did to stay in this football game was convert two fumbles from Coyotes quarterback Dain McFarland into touchdowns. The first was a 2-yard scoring pass from quarterback Zakary Hambsch to Tim Fowler and it cut Centennial’s lead to 14-10 late in the third quarter.
The second came midway through the fourth quarter when Hambsch hit Anthony Jones with a 4-yard scoring pass to cut the lead to 21-16. The Coyotes had stopped the Huskies on a fourth-down play from the 1-yard line, but gave the football back on the very next play when McFarland was stripped.
The play of the game came on the next Centennial drive when the Coyotes appeared to be losing their momentum.
On third down, McFarland rolled to his right and then threw the football back to his left to running back John Hughes. The senior broke one tackle and then outran the Huskies defense for a 67-yard touchdown.
It gave Centennial a 28-16 lead with 4:46 left in the game. Coyotes coach Richard Taylor said he knew the play was going to be big. He said his team had worked on that one play in the spring with the specific goal of using it against Hamilton.
Hughes was the star of the game, rushing for three touchdowns in addition to the one scoring reception. He carried the football 17 times for 70 yards.
Centennial wasted no time in dominating Hamilton as it scored twice in the first eight minutes of the game. The Coyotes drove 69 yards on their first series with Anthony Hughes scoring on a 3-yard run. After forcing a Hamilton punt, it took Centennial three plays to score again with John Hughes racing 33 yards for another touchdown.