If Friday’s contest against Skyline felt a little like déjà vu for the Hamilton football program – from the opponent, to the score, to the way the Huskies seemingly tried everything in their power to give away a victory before snatching it back – know that even Steve Belles was having flashbacks after his team had fashioned its latest escape.
“It’s kind of eerie,” Belles said as he stood near midfield following Hamilton’s 21-14 victory over visiting Skyline, which snapped the Coyotes’ perfect record and left both teams at 5-1 on the season.
Friday’s score matched that of Hamilton’s 2014 win over Skyline in the state quarterfinals, the last time the two teams had met. In that game Hamilton committed five turnovers, missed two field goals and was down 14-0 before the Huskies pulled things together to stage a late comeback.
This time around, Hamilton never trailed but had similar problems holding onto the ball, fumbling four times. A litany of unnecessary penalties and other mental mistakes had Belles and the rest of the Hamilton coaching staff fuming on several occasions, and despite outplaying Skyline for much of the evening, the Huskies were only up seven late as Skyline marched down the field on its final drive.
Reaching the Hamilton 17-yard line with just under a minute to play, Skyline had three chances to find the end zone and pull even, but quarterback TJ Duarte threw two incompletions and saw his last heave picked off in the Hamilton end zone.
Skyline coach Angelo Paffumi, who led the Coyotes to a Division II state-semifinal appearance last season, still sees room for improvement in his team’s mental approach as it battles the elite teams of 6A, the state’s highest classification.
“We need to truly believe in ourselves, instead of acting like we believe in ourselves, if that makes sense,” Paffumi said. “Their kids made the plays over and over again, and we should’ve been able to step up.
“We believe that we’re good, but we don’t believe 100 percent that we’re going to make individual plays. We need to have that confidence. Once we get that, we’ll be a pretty good football team. But right now, we’re not.”
Paffumi took responsibility for a failed fake punt in the third quarter that led to a Hamilton score, making it 14-7.
Hamilton widened the gap with 7:22 remaining when a pass from Tyler Shough whizzed past a Skyline defender and into the hands of receiver Chancellor Brewington, who took it 12 yards for a Hamilton touchdown.
The pair connected on several big plays Friday, with Brewington recording six catches for 128 yards and two scores.
Shough left the game late in the second quarter after injuring his left leg, but returned with a knee brace in the second half and finished 13 for 17 with 204 passing yards.
The mini-parallels continue for Hamilton next week when the Huskies take on Brophy – the same opponent they had to deal with the week after beating Skyline two years ago.
With the regular season only halfway through though, Hamilton has time to oil the machine. But that means nothing to Belles, who admitted to having a different “edge” in practice this week, and in general since the Huskies suffered their only loss of the year two weeks ago to Desert Ridge.
“I was (angry) this week, to be honest,” Belles said. “Just because we haven’t played Hamilton football. Tonight, we played Hamilton football.”
*Killian is a Tempe-based freelancer.
Hamilton 21, Skyline 14
S 0 7 0 7 – 14
H 7 0 7 7 – 21
H – Jordan 7 run (Rusch kick), 8:45
S – Duarte 10 run (Gomez kick), 4:43
H – Brewington 28 pass from Shough (Ballinas kick), 1:31
H – Brewington 12 pass from Shough (Rusch kick), 7:22
S – Wood 2 run (Gomez kick), 3:05
First downs 16 12
Rush-yards 33-172 35-61
Comp-Att-Int 14-29-3 13-17-0
Pass yards 154 204
Total yards 326 265
Fumbles/lost 0-0 4-1
Penalties 7-36 10-95
S - Hardin 22-106, Wood 6-25, Duarte 3-22, Jackson 2-19. H – Jordan 23-77, Shough 5-(-23), Alexander 4-8, Wood 2-(-4), Lassiter 1-3.
S – Duarte 14-27-0-154, Hardin 0-1-0-0, Crawford 0-1-0-0. H – Shough 13-17-2-204.
S – Crawford 5-107, Glover 3-5, Hardin 3-25, Jackson 2-25, Abramson 1-5. H – Brewington 6-128, Alexander 3-41, Armenta 2-11, Lassiter 1-12, Jordan 1-12.
Missed field goals
S – Gomez (41 yards). H – Ballinas (44 yards).