It’s a given that any game between Chandler and Hamilton will attract a crowd – other football rivalries in the state may feature as much passion and more history, but no two schools can pack a stadium and rock the house quite like the Wolves and Huskies.
Even with Hamilton showing occasional cracks in the armor this year, losing three games during the regular season for the first time ever, Friday’s game against Chandler carried a familiar anticipation, with fans flooding in to catch the 2016 installment of the Battle for Arizona Avenue.
Those hoping to see fireworks got their wish. Those looking for a competitive game got half of theirs.
Both teams rang up the scoreboard early, but it was only Chandler that could sustain its breakneck offensive pace Friday, defeating host Hamilton 63-28 in the final game of the regular season.
“As long as we get stops (on defense), our offense is really hard to stop with those weapons,” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said. “We have a pretty prolific offense. We didn’t do real well defensively in the first half, so we made a few adjustments. … Once we did that and got our offense rolling, it was hard to stop.”
It didn’t take long for the highlights to begin. Tailback TJ Green took a handoff on Chandler’s first play from scrimmage and bolted 69 yards to the end zone, giving the Wolves a 7-0 lead.
“It was wide open once I got the ball,” Green said, “so I just took off.”
That would be the case several more times for Green and seemingly every other skill player on the field Friday. Chandler and Hamilton combined for seven touchdowns in the first half – all from at least 19 yards out and three from more than 40.
With Chandler holding a 28-21 lead following that first-half shootout, the Wolves punched the accelerator even harder coming out of the locker room, scoring touchdowns on each of their first five drives of the second half.
Hamilton could muster only one over that stretch, watching Chandler pull away to become the first opponent to ever hang 60 points on the Huskies, a week after Perry came close in a 55-21 win.
“We’re just not a very good team right now,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said. “We got to make some stops, and we got to do a better job on offense scoring points. It’s a team thing. I know we’re young, but we should be playing better than how we played tonight.”
In a game where several players posted healthy stat lines, Green stood out with a monster performance, recording 307 rushing yards on 25 carries and scoring four touchdowns, including one on a 25-yard pass reception in the first quarter.
“We knew that we could run the ball tonight, so we challenged (Hamilton) and gave (Green) the ball a lot,” Aguano said. “The good thing with him is, the longer the game goes on, he gets stronger and stronger. And he had a lot in his tank tonight.”
Chandler (8-2, 4-0) had already clinched the 6A Premier region and entered the matchup with Hamilton (6-4, 1-3) having scored 31 or more points in eight of nine games – the exception being a 52-7 drubbing by top-ranked Mountain Pointe on Sept. 8. Since that letdown, the Wolves have outscored their opponents by an average of 35 points and head into the postseason on a six-game winning streak.
“We want to keep playing like this the next four weeks. We want a state championship,” Green said. “The Mountain Pointe loss definitely humbled us. We thought we were going to be the top team in the state, but we were humbled by that. Now we’re prepared.”
*Killian is a Tempe-based freelancer.
Chandler 63, Hamilton 28
C 21 7 21 14 – 63
H 14 7 7 0 – 28
C – Green 69 run (Peterman kick), 9:42
C – Green 25 pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 5:28
H – Brewington 51 pass from Shough (Rusch kick), 4:47
C – Romney 19 pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 1:43
H – Jarmon 34 pass from Shough (Rusch kick), 1:11
H – Jordan 41 run (Rusch kick), 8:42
C – Conover 19 run (Peterman kick), 6:39
C – R. Johnson 58 run (Peterman kick), 10:38
C – Romney 13 pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 7:11
H – Jarmon 6 pass from Shough (Rusch kick), 5:27
C – Green 76 run (Peterman kick), 4:38
C – Green 14 run (Peterman kick), 11:30
C – R. Johnson 1 run (Peterman kick), 9:16
First downs 29 12
Rush-yards 49-522 21-163
Comp-Att-Int 18-23-0 14-24-0
Pass yards 206 175
Total yards 728 338
Fumbles/lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties 9-84 2-16
C – Green 25-307, R. Johnson 10-120, Conover 7-20, Maxwell 4-70, Shivers 3-5. H – Jordan 10-103, Alexander 7-41, Shough 3-20, Jarmon 1-(-1).
C – Conover 18-23-3-206. H – Shough 14-24-3-175.
C – J. Johnson 9-97, Romney 4-50, Green 2-51, Howard 2-5, R. Johnson 1-3. H – Brewington 6-102, Jarmon 5-51, Jordan 2-14, Alexander 1-8.