Chandler High and Hamilton spent three-plus quarters trading punts Friday night in what was a ho-hum affair late with Hamilton leading 9-6.
But Chandler High will long remember the final 3:37 of what turned out to be its first-ever football victory over rival Hamlton in 14 years.
Bryce Perkins ran for a TD and passed for another in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the game — the second with 13 seconds left — to lift Chandler to a 26-16 victory over Hamilton at Chandler's Austin Field.
“'I've learned it's never over until that last second ticks off,” Chandler coach Shawn Aguano said. “I had the last 16 years of the rivalry flash before my eyes. We had a little luck on our side, but the kids also didn't give up when they scored to take the lead with a minute left.”
Hamilton led 9-6 with 3:37 to play in the game. All the points to that juncture were scored in the first quarter. Hamilton tallied its nine on a field goal and a TD for a quick 9-0 lead. The field goal came after a 4-yard punt set the Huskies up at the Chandler 31. The TD came with the help of two 15-yard penalties on Chandler and nice 1-yard TD run by Tyrell Smith (85 yards rushing on 15 carries). Chandler scored its first-period TD with the aid of a personal foul penalty and a big play from Chase Lucas — a 45-yard TD run with 1:48 left in the first. Lucas finished with 119 yards on 17 rushes.
That was it offensively until the final 3 1/2 minutes. Over that span 27 points were scored that left both sections of fans stunned and excited by what they saw.
Chandler looked as though it was headed for a 9-6 loss. With just less than four minutes left the Wolves had no time outs left and needed a stop. They got that and more. A fumble recovery at the Hamilton 26 set up a three-play drive — two runs by Lucas and the finishing touch a 10-yard TD run bhy Perkins to make it 13-9 with 2:44 left.
Hamilton's offense, which has sputtered in comparison to past seasons, pieced together a seven-play, 74 yard drive to regain the lead, 16-13. Two fine receptions by Elijah Williams — a 37-yard back-shoulder grab (intended or not) and the drive clinching 18-yarder for the TD on a tipped reception from quarterback Sam Sasso.
That score reminded fans of both team of the 2009 loss that saw Hamilton score late to snatch victory from defeat in the closest game ever between the teams (24-20).
Chandler had just 1:12 to work with for a field goal or go-ahead score and no timeouts. But it wasn't panic time for Perkins and company.
“We knew we had time and we're looking for short passes and plays that could get us out of bounds,” Perkins said. “When we got down there (inside the Hamilton 20) we called “Stick Corner”.
Stick Corner was a curl pattern to Dionte Sykes and Perkins fired a strike that Sykes cradled in the end zone that sent Chandler fans the message that the streak of 17 consecutive losses was over dating back to the first meeting in 1999 when players on both teams had yet to attend kindergarten. Perkins completed 5-of-8 passes on the drive for 54 yards. He finished with 50 yards rushing and 138 passing.
“We were still confident,” Aguano said. “We practice that situation (little time, lots of yards) all the time. I think the schedule we've had with Centennial, St. John Bosco and Mountain Pointe has helped prepare us. This one is one we'll remember.”
Chandler added a final TD with four seconds left as efferson Hunt intercepted Sasso and ran it back for the final six points of a 20-point spree.