November 27, 2004

Highland turned the prep football scene upside down when it upset top-ranked and undefeated Hamilton a little over a month ago. Hamilton put things back in order Friday night.

The second-seeded Huskies took one more step toward a successful defense of their 5A state championship by avenging their only loss of the season with a dominating 34-10 victory over the 14th-seeded Hawks in a state semifinal game Friday night at McClintock High School. With the win, Hamilton (12-1) advances to play 16th-seeded Glendale Mountain Ridge, a 42-34 winner over Phoenix Brophy, in the state championship game Dec. 4 at Sun Devil Stadium.

Highland (9-4) rang up 363 yards of offense in its 37-15 win over Hamilton on Oct. 22. The Huskies’ defense was having none of that Friday and held the Hawks to 157 yards.

"Yeah, we were embarrassed. We got crushed," defensive back Jim Rogers said of his team’s last encounter with Highland. "We overlooked them and they shocked us. This time we played our guts out."

Even though it trailed 20-3 midway through the third quarter, Highland was still dangerous as it proved in postseason rallies against Westwood and Corona del Sol in the previous two weeks.

The Hawks cut the Huskies’ lead to 10 points when Shaun Fitzpatrick hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fair with just over a minute left in the third quarter to cap a desperate 14-play, 80-yard drive during which they dug themselves out of third-and-21 holes twice.

Highland got the ball back with 10 minutes remaining in the game, but Hamilton’s defense took it right back. Three plays into the series, defensive back Clark Lamb intercepted Fair’s pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. Highland went three-and-out on its next series and Mekell Wesley put the game away on a 31-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes to play.

"We just got behind and couldn’t catch up," Highland coach Preston Jones said. "You can’t play average when you’re playing a team like Hamilton. They’ve got too many horses."

Wesley and quarterback Travis Dixon were the horses doing most of the running for Hamilton.

Wesley had six catches for 61 yards and carried the ball three times for 41 yards and two touchdowns. He put Hamilton’s first points on the board with a 2-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter and he capped the scoring with his 31-yarder in the final period.

In between Wesley’s two scores, Dominic Papa hit a pair of 27-yard field goals and Lamb and Dixon both found the end zone.

Dixon carried the ball 22 times for 93 yards and completed 8-of-14 passes for 111 yards. He was 4-for-4 for 50 yards in the second half and his 13-yard keeper on an option play gave Hamilton its 20-3 lead midway through the third period.

Dixon said revenge was on the minds of Hamilton’s players since they learned Highland had advanced to the semifinals last Friday night.

"Once we found out we’d be playing them again, it was payback," Dixon said. "We were embarrassed last time."

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