Hamilton looked like the Huskies of yester-year. Desert Ridge was, well, a bit shell-shocked.
The rest of Division I might want to sit up.
The Huskies stuffed Desert Ridge's vaulted rushing attack most of the night, countered with an efficient, balanced offense and turned Jaguars' turnovers into points.
The result was a 34-14 victory for the Huskies which left Hamilton - at least for a day or two - pleased about its play for a change this season.
More big showdowns unfold in two weeks with Chandler, followed by Desert Vista, but in removing Desert Ridge (3-1) from the ranks of the undefeated, the Huskies (2-2) might have sent a memo that they're still worthy of title talk.
"They had an axe to grind a bit and maybe our guys thought a bit too much of themselves," Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. "We got handled. ... Just an old-fashioned beatdown behind the woodshed."
Despite missing a few starters because of injuries - the Jaguars hope to become healthier in the next 1-2 weeks - Desert Ridge's running game of Tarek Morrison and JJ Husar never busted loose as it had in the three previous games this season.
Each ran hard and had their moments in rushing for a combined 200 yards and a touchdown, but it was far too late. The Jaguars struggled in the passing game most of the night, and being one-dimensional against the likes of Santana Sterling, Luke Parrish and Cole Luke on Hamilton's defense didn't work for D-Ridge.
Kevin Walters, who transferred from Desert Ridge to Hamilton two years ago and sat out last season because of injury, saw extensive time (13 carries, 81 yards) while Frankie Felix and quarterback AJ Thigpen also effectively ran on the Jaguars, especially in the second half.
"It was a big win for us," Walters said. "We simplified some things and it worked out. We needed to get our confidence back."
The Huskies ran options, counters, sweeps and a few up the gut, and Desert Ridge's defense couldn't hold up while being on the field most of the night.
"Sometimes you have to say, 'Let's go and play smashmouth,'" Belles said.
The third quarter is when Hamilton turned a 14-7 halftime lead into a blowout. Aided by a couple touchdown heaves (44 yards to Felix, 44 yards to Tyler Eggers early in the third quarter and 41 yards to Luke), Thigpen had the best night of his high school career. He threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. Both Felix (103 yards receiving) and Izzy Simpson (79 yards) had success on intermediate routes.
Two of those were wide open catch-and-runs, while Eggers was blanketed in the end zone, but Thigpen threw it deep on the run anyway and Eggers won the jump ball with 24 seconds left in the first half.
On the third play from scrimmage in the third quarter Felix streaked by himself down the middle for the long touchdown and a 20-7 lead.
Desert Ridge fumbled on its ensuing possession and Luke's long TD catch off play-action made it 27-7.
"We haven't had a quarter like that since the second quarter against Marcos de Niza (in 2010)," Hathcock said. "Our defense got handled. It was hard to watch."
The balanced offense, good fortune on a couple broken plays and big chunks of yardage were nice, but the lack of turnovers was a big deal in the wake of Hamilton's four turnovers against Notre Dame (Calif.) in Ireland two weeks ago.
"That was the worst offense we'd ever played, and as bad as that was is as good as we were most of (Friday)," Belles said.
Not so much on Desert Ridge's side, but the Jaguars remain optimistic. With injuries to their starting tackle and another running back (Taren Morrison), plus another starter out because of an ejection from last week's game, the Jaguars believe they'll be back in the thick of things in a couple weeks.
That is, if they can stop people and find their passing game.
"We played well in the first half, and we'll be better for this and getting healthier," Hathcock said. "We have some guys who can play. We just have to give them time."
Hamilton 34, Desert Ridge 14
DR 0 7 0 7 -- 14
Hamilton 0 7 20 7 -- 34
First Downs: DR 14, Ham 17
Rushing: DR 35-188, Ham 34-167
Passing: DR 6-13-58-1, Ham 12-16-268-1
Fumbles: DR 2-2, Ham 0-0
Penalties: DR 3-30, Ham 6-62
H: Thigpen 25 run (Wickman kick)
DR: Husar 2 run (Solis kick)
H: Eggers 44 pass from Thigpen (Wickman kick)
H: Felix 41 pass from Thigpen (run failed)
H: Luke 44 pass from Thigpen (Wickman kick)
H: Adams 4 run (Wickman kick)
DR: Colson 18 pass from Morrison (Solis kick)
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.