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Courtesy of MaxPreps.com

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Arizona football championships: Hamilton dominates for seventh state title

Nov 24, 2012
Photo by Todd Shurtleff

Hamilton coach Steve Belles celebrates 12th straight victory and seven Arizona State Division I title following a 31-16 triumph over Mountain Pointe at University of Phoenix Stadium.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Hamilton (Chandler) High School's football team is at it again.

After having a 53-game winning streak end about a year ago, the Huskies won their 12th straight game to close out the season on Saturday to win the Division I state title with a convincing 31-16 victory over top-seeded Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Photo by Todd Shurtleff

Hamilton running back Kevin Walters rushed for a game-high 125 yards.

It came after opening the year 0-2 with second defeat coming before a long plane ride back from Ireland.

"It was a pretty quiet flight," senior quarterback AJ Thigpen said. "We felt like we wasted our parents' money, but it showed us we had a lot of work to do."

It paid off with the seventh title in school history, moving the Huskies (12-2) one title behind Mesa Mountain View for the big-school record.

"It was a great team win," said Hamilton coach Steve Belles, who won his fifth. "They are all sweet, but how we started and how we finished made makes this one to remember. It was a special group and it won't be forgotten by anyone at Hamilton anytime soon. "

Third-seeded Hamilton dominated the first half, partly thanks to a fumble on the Pride's first offensive possession that saw the Huskies build a 10-0 lead by running 18 offensive plays compared to the Pride's two in the first 13 minutes of the game.

The Huskies started the game eerily similar to the last year's game when it was on the other end of a game that was over before it really started.

"That's exactly what happened to us last year," said Hamilton senior linebacker Luke Parrish, who forced Hinojosa's fumble on the first drive. "It was hard to take last year, but being on this end of it is a heck of a lot better."

Hamilton, which trailed Desert Vista 14-0 in the first four minutes of last year's game, marched down the field on the first possession, and then took advantage of the opposition's turnover and turned into points just like last year's defeat that ended a 53-game win streak.

It was 10-0 Hamilton, which won 12 straight to end the season, and at that point the Huskies had two scoring drives and Mountain Pointe (12-2) had two offensive plays with three seconds gone in the second half.

"They controlled the clock and we turned it over," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "You can't win with turnovers and when the other team controls the clock. We can play with them; just not today."

Hamilton made two plays overlapping the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half to put the game out of reach as the Huskies scored 14 points in 2 minutes and 54 seconds of game clock.

The lead pushed to 17-0 at the end of the half when Tyler Eggers made a great catch in the end zone, wrestling the ball after from the Pride defender, with 24 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Pride needed to make a statement to open second half that the momentum would change, but Levi Sterling, who blocked a field attempt earlier, intercepted Antonio Hinojosa and returned it 32 yards for the score for a 24-0 lead.

The Pride, playing in their first state title game, showed the resolve Vaughan coached teams are known for as they kept pushing Hamilton, closing within 24-9 but that's as close as they would get.

As it turned out Hamilton was the state's best team as it probably should have won Week 1 against the Pride, which won 17-14, and haven't lost since collecting travel miles to Ireland in Week 2.

The Huskies came back from that and slowly matured into a champion as players like Kevin Walters (125 yards rushing), Levi Sterling and lineman Patrick Joseph.

"This team wanted this so bad after last year," said Parrish, who played in the Little League World Series as a youth. "People counted us and that was new to us, but we proved we could win in any situation."
Photo by Todd Shurtleff

Qualen Cunningham kisses the championship trophy after Hamilton's decisive 31-16 victory on Saturday.

DIVISION II: Iron Ridge 27, Centennial 3

Ironwood Ridge (Tucson, Ariz.) brought the trophy back to the Tucson area with a win over Centennial.

Ironwood Ridge (13-1) scored on the opening drive of the second half on Anthony Braunreiter scored 8-yard run to give the Nighthawks a 14-3 lead at Sun Devil Stadium.

Minutes later, linebacker Scott Simmons intercepted Centennial quarterback Tre’Von Grant and returned it for a touchdown. The Nighthawks missed the ensuing extra point and lead the Coyotes 20-3.

It was the second time third-seeded Ironwood Ridge knocked off No. 4 Centennial (12-2) and gave the Nighthawks their first state championship.

DIVISION III: Queen Creek 9, Desert Edge 7
This was the oddest of the state title games as No. 2 Queen Creek beat No. 1 Desert Edge on a safety with 12 seconds left for the school’s first state title at Sun Devil Stadium.

Queen Creek's Tucker Workman raced to the Desert Edge end zone to tackle Desert Edge punter Chris Brown the safety.

Workman was able to get to Brown, who had to hustle back to his end zone to retrieve a high center snap on a fourth-down punt by top-seeded Desert Edge (13-1). Workman got to Brown near the back of the end zone and wrapped him up so he couldn't attempt a desperation pass to avoid a safety. The result was victory for second-seeded and 14-0 Queen Creek, which has made great strides in the three years Joe Germaine has been the quarterback.

Friday
DIVISION IV: Seton Catholic 28, Blue Ridge 7

Seton Catholic’s defense held the vaunted Blue Ridge running game in check all game long and the offense exploded in the first quarter as the Sentinels captured the Division IV state title with a win on Friday night at the NAU Walkup Skydome.

It is the first title for Seton Catholic (Chandler) (13-1) since 1997 and an improbable one after the juggernaut Yellow Jackets came in as a heavy favorite.

The Seton offense, meanwhile, did its part by as quarterback Ryan Bresnahan hit Daniel Garlid five times for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone as Seton went up 21-7 once Bresnahan scrambled for an 11-yard touchdown 10 seconds into the second quarter.

Blue Ridge (13-1) made it interesting in the final minutes by driving inside the Seton red zone, but Eric Probst sacked quarterback Skyler Hill and forced a fumble, which Connor Kathe returned 88 yards for a touchdown to clinch the championship.

DIVISION V: Northwest Christian 21, Morenci 7
Top-seeded Northwest Christian (Phoenix) (13-1) won its second title in three years with a win over No. 2 Morenci at the Skydome.

Quarterback Kyle Shipp threw two first-half touchdowns as NWC built a 14-7 lead and then tacked on a fourth-quarter TD catch by James Mosbrucker

Second-seeded Morenci (13-1) made its first state title appearance since 1976 but didn’t have enough to get past NWC as the offense was limited to 167 total yards.

Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is an 18-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at jskoda1024@aol.com or 480-272-2449.

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