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Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com email@example.com
Hamilton defense gets revenge in Desert Vista rematchOct 5, 2012
Hamilton's football team has more recent losses than the one that closed out the 2011 campaign. Those took place in August to Mountain Pointe and Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif) and should be fresher to the Huskies simply by time (six weeks vs. more than 10 months).
No chance. The loss administered by Desert Vista two days after last Thanksgiving that landed the Thunder a state title and denied Hamilton a fourth consecutive big-school title -- the Huskies wouldn't and couldn't forget. Particularly the guys on the defensive side.
Proof of that came Friday night as Hamilton's defense bathed itself in redemption with an impressive 23-13 triumph over the defending champs at Jerry Loper Field.
"That's as good a defense as we've played this year," Hamilton defensive coordinator Lane Reynolds said. "They took something we wanted last year. We had a chip on our shoulder. Our front seven set the tone."
Last year's title-game meeting, which saw Desert Vista out physical the Huskies to the tune of 45 points and a few yards short of 400, was clearly the Thunder's. This time Hamilton's defense didn't let Desert Vista get its running game untracked. It also set up 10 points -- with the help of special teams -- in the final 3:40 of the first half to establish grasp and control of the contest.
Hamilton limited Desert Vista to 113 yards of offense in the first half. Fifty-two of that came a run by Thunder quarterback Matt Young early in the first period on a drive that fizzled outside the red zone. Take away that run and the Thunder rushed 17 times for 34 yards in the opening half.
Desert Vista's leading rusher Jarek Hilgers, who entered the game with 569 yards, was held to 40 yards on 13 carries. The Thunder finished with 145 yards on 34 rushes.
Hamilton's defensive effort was impressive due in part by the fact how young the unit is. Only three seniors among the 11 starters. Sophomore lineman Caleb Peart made the key play of the first half sacking Young for a safety with 3:40 before intermission. That pushed Hamilton's lead to 9-0.
Forced to give the ball back to Hamilton, the Huskies used some razzle-dazzle with Tyler Eggers taking a handoff from Cole Luke on the ensuing kickoff and returning it 53 yards. Running back Stevon Adams scored on a 3-yard run with 37 seconds left giving Hamilton a 16-0 halftime lead.
"Other than the one breakdown in the first half (Young's run), our kids played well," Reynolds said. "Our defense is young and for the future we'll have a bunch of them back."
Desert Vista scored two touchdowns in the second half, but didn't really threaten the lead. Both scores were set up by turnovers. Hamilton quarterback-punter A.J. Thigpen bobbled a snap in punt formation and was tackled for loss on fourth down at the Huskies 7. Desert Vista scored on the next play to make it 16-6.
Hamilton's offense marched 80 yards to a touchdown and 23-6 lead with 4:58 left in the third period, capped by Thigpen's 13-yard TD pass to Israel Simpson. A Hamilton fumble keyed Desert Vista's other march as did two fourth-down conversions on the Thunder's best series of the night that closed the gap to 23-13 with six minutes left.
Hamilton's second interception of the game --by Levi Sterling -- with 3:06 iced the game. Hamilton put an exclamation point on the win with two sacks by junior lineman Brady Denton in the final minute.
"Our goal was a shutout," Hamilton defensive back Cole Luke, who had the Huskies other pick, said. "Our defense wanted this one bad after last year. We wanted a goose egg. We got that safety and that turned out to be big for us."