Hamilton defeats Desert Ridge to advance to Division I State Championship

Nov 17, 2012, 8:08 AM | Updated: 8:09 am

And then there were two.

Two touchdowns separating the competitors. Two straight victories in the season series between the two teams. And two remaining Division I football teams competing for the Arizona State Championship.

When Hamilton quarterback A.J. Thigpen broke free from the scrum for a 58-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter at Highland High School, there was no doubt in the minds of anyone on the property: we’ve seen this story before. The Hamilton Huskies in the state championship game is a surprise to no one. They punched their ticket again Friday night with a 21-7 victory over the Desert Ridge Jaguars.

Desert Ridge, the two-seed to Hamilton’s three-seed, came into Friday night’s match-up a gritty underdog. The smashmouth team, who made a season of run, run, run, and then, if you’ve got time for it, run some more, was short a veritable handful of future Saturday starters. Workhorse superstars J.J. Husar and Tarek Morrison, both 1,000 yard rushers, didn’t play due to injury.

Coach Jeremy Hathcock said they tried to change the system up to play to the strengths of the next men up, but there just wasn’t enough time.

Considering the circumstances, and the opponent, Hathcock had plenty to be proud of.

“I thought they did a great job on defense — they forced two turnovers,” Hathcock said. “Offensively, I’m proud of our guys for fighting hard. They’re just too new. It’s pretty hard when you lose your skill kids. We lost three superstars … But our kids fought hard.”

It was a game that looked winnable for the Jaguars. Even after back-up quarterback Brendon Smith got the ball stripped by sophomore defensive lineman Caleb Peart and returned for a 19-yard touchdown by senior Ethan Hendricks, the Jaguars only needed one touchdown to tie it. But a late score by Thigpen and a spirited defensive effort thwarted Desert Ridge’s hopes for a win.

Thigpen went 4-for-6 for 22 yards but added a 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give Hamilton some breathing room.

For a team playing the role of Goliath, however, Hamilton had its share of struggles. The perennial champs (reaching their sixth straight title game and trying for their sixth championship in 10 years) couldn’t get anything going on offense all night and instead relied on a dominant defense to get the job done.

The Huskies recorded five sacks and forced three turnovers on defense They also limited Desert Ridge to only three first downs in the second half.

Hamilton coach Steve Belles was right in his praise of his defense, whom he essentially credited with the win.

Belles said last Friday night, after getting the monkey off their back by beating the Desert Vista team who defeated them in last year’s trip to the state championship, that the key to beating Desert Ridge was “stopping the run.” Mission accomplished.

It certainly helped Goliath that David was suffering from a broken leg and a torn ACL in his run game, but handicapped or not, it was a victory of attrition for the stronger, healthier team Friday night.

Hamilton tore up the storybook this week, and now must hope they don’t fall victim to a narrative in the championship next week. Mountain Pointe, the regular season champs this year, will try to win its first ever State Championship against the Huskies at University of Phoenix Stadium next Saturday at noon.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus


Arizona Sports

Arizona prep star lands on All-USA preseason football team

The high school prep season is upon us and it wouldn’t be complete without a preseason team hyping up all the stars. Arizona’s own Christian Kirk out of Saguaro High in Scottsdale was selected as one of the top wide receivers. Kirk is undecided on where he’ll suit up next year when he heads off […]

10 years ago

Arizona Sports

Arizona wrestling tournaments to begin Saturday

PHOENIX — Arizona state wrestling tournaments will begin Saturday after a jump in skin lesions caused officials to postpone it, the Arizona Interscholastic Association said Tuesday. “We recognized that the postponement of the wrestling tournaments was an inconvenience but when compared to protecting the health and well-being of our students, it was a choice that […]

11 years ago

AIA provides more information regarding upcoming wrestling tournaments

PHOENIX, AZ (Feb. 10, 2014) – The AIA staff and the AIA Executive Board consider the health and safety of all students to be of the highest concern.  The postponement of the sectional tournament last week was done based on advice and counsel received from medical, public health officials and experts within the national wrestling community. […]

11 years ago

AIA statement regarding wrestling sectionals

PHOENIX, AZ (Feb. 7, 2014) – It has come to the attention of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) that a number of wrestlers have contracted a skin infection.  It is important to note that none have been reported to be MRSA. Due to the number of wrestlers reported with a skin infection, the AIA, as a […]

11 years ago


Andrew Gilstrap

AIA official: There’s been an ‘outpouring of love and support’ for family of fallen player Charles Youvella

Hopi High School football player Charles Youvella died Monday in a Valley hospital from a traumatic brain injury suffered during his team’s playoff game Saturday against Arizona Lutheran Academy. Arizona Interscholastic Association Chief Operating Officer Chuck Schmidt told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos Tuesday that the AIA is still figuring how Youvella’s injury was […]

11 years ago

Hopi High’s Youvella passed away Monday night

Hopi High football player Charles Youvella passed away Monday night after suffering an injury during his team's Saturday playoff football game.  Charles’ father, Wallace, is a board member of the Arizona Interscholastic Association's executive board. Below is a statement the AIA released Monday night.  AIA statement PHOENIX, AZ (November 11, 2013) – We are deeply […]

11 years ago

Hamilton defeats Desert Ridge to advance to Division I State Championship