This Hamilton-Mountain Pointe thingy next Friday night is a big game.
The super-saturated storylines will yield endless fodder in print, on the airwaves, all throughout the Internet tubes and social media: It’s a rematch of last year’s state championship game, Mountain Pointe could be even better this year, while Hamilton has looked like a mere mortal, the dustup between Huskies coach Steve Belles and Mountain Pointe administration on the sidelines during the Barry Sollenberger Classic in Las Vegas in late August.
On and on it will go and re-circulate, probably to exhaustion. Or, at least in the case of the latter, overcooked-ness. Nobody other than Belles and Mountain Pointe coaches/administration cares anymore, and it’s doubtful those parties care anymore themselves.
It’s not that this super matchup won’t be the center of the Valley’s high school football universe for good reason. Anyone who follows high school football knows the talent level involved here. There’s no arguing the buildup, talent on display, execution, effort and emotions by everyone involved will be second-to-none.
Hamilton likely hasn’t been this much of an underdog — whether slight or substantial — against an Arizona opponent since the Huskies played (and lost to) Peoria Centennial in 2008.
But it’s late September, not late November, and based on recent history between Hamilton and the Ahwatukee schools, this game might not tell us as much as we want to believe or declare by 10 p.m. next Friday night, especially given that regardless of this game’s outcome or even how it unfolds, reasonable odds suggest these schools meet again in, oh, six or eight weeks.
Two years ago, Hamilton pasted Desert Vista in the regular season. Desert Vista crushed Hamilton in the state title game.
Last year, Mountain Pointe beat Hamilton on a late field goal to begin the season. Three months later, Hamilton handled the Pride in the state championship game.
You can bet Hamilton will enjoy its rare role of seeing more and more people pick against the Huskies. You can also bet the Huskies haven’t seen speed and physicality in one combo-platter like what Mountain Pointe will bring.
We always vividly remember whatever occurrence happened most recently, fairness notwithstanding, so enjoy the game, marvel at the talent and intensity on both sides, and keep the blocking, tackling and postgame handshakes clean.
Just don’t walk away assuming a Sept. 27 game has any bearing whatsoever on what may come in November.
Friday was not a good day to be a skilled-position player. Actually, the past couple Fridays haven’t been banner health days.
The most severe might be Mountain Pointe running back/linebacker Wesley Payne, who dislocated his elbow. The heart and soul of Mountain Pointe’s defense (and, arguably, locker room) had it popped back into place (OUCH!) and could wear a protective brace around it if there’s no ligament damage. The latter is yet to be determined but there’s a good chance he’ll miss a few weeks.
Marcos de Niza’s all-everything quarterback Josh Eckley re-aggravated his ankle injury late in the Padres’ win over Laveen Cesar Chavez. His availability and ability are a huge factor in Marcos’ trip down to play at No. 1 Tucson Salpointe Catholic next week.
Basha’s Rajhan Meriwether was injured on the fourth play of the night last week against Cesar Chavez, and didn’t play against Pinnacle. The Bears beat a good Pioneers team without him, but he’s needed in Basha’s long-term plans. A sliver of good news for Pinnacle, as Harris Scoville appeared to have a seizure which stopped the game for nearly 30 minutes and prompted an ambulance call. But it was “only” severe back spasms.
En route to losing a 28-0 lead — and the game — to Chaparral, Desert Mountain’s standout wide receiver Mark Andrews didn’t play most of the second half with a deep leg bruise. The Wolves also lost center Christian Boettcher to a leg injury, possibly for at least a few weeks.
Mountain Pointe-Hamilton will garner more than its fair share of attention this week, but dig a little deeper and a lot of quality games exist.
The aforementioned Marcos-Salpointe Catholic matchup is a biggie. Avondale Westview sneaks up to No. 4 in our Division I rankings after Chandler’s miserable night against Mountain Pointe, and the Knights go all the way out to Basha, which just took down a quality Pinnacle team. The Pioneers host undefeated Mountain View next week.
Desert Mountain has many physical and mental wounds to heal this week, and the Wolves better do so fast because they go to a Horizon team led by QB Dalton Sneed, which has put up 60 points per game in its 3-1 start to the season. Chaparral is flying high after its monumental comeback win against Desert Mountain, but Red Mountain can finally exhale after being on the happy end of a nail-biter in beating Brophy. Speaking of which, Brophy travels out to Desert Ridge, which just got QB Tarek Morrison back into the mix after recovering from torn knee ligaments in last year’s playoffs.
Unbeaten Higley is coming off a good win over Cactus Shadows on a late field goal, but now things get nasty with a trip to Queen Creek. Highland and Campo Verde square off in a cross-division battle of who will score 14 points first. Similar to Desert Mountain, Chandler has a lot of self-help work to do this week before heading over to Laveen Cesar Chavez.
Weston Barlow: Who needs Matt Guida? Well, Queen Creek for one, but while the reigning Tribune Player of the Year has dealt with injuries, his apparent heir apparent, Barlow, has done a pretty good Guida impression for three consecutive weeks: 233 yards and four touchdowns against a good Show Low team and 320 yards and five total touchdowns against McClintock on Friday. The Bulldogs need Guida, both running the ball and on defense, but with each passing week, Barlow and the Bulldogs’ offensive line are making things more fuzzy in the backfield.
Horizon: It sure helps having kids whose abilities (especially offensively) help segue into a new era, but new coach Kris Heavner’s implementation of the latest craze — a spread-style offense — has Horizon putting up points like nobody (or everybody these days). Ever heard of kids like Dalton Sneed, Luke Quinn, Brett Bishop, Cole Finochiarro and Jason McLaurin? The NE Valley has now. It’s often rough being on the low end (enrollment-wise) of a division, let alone Div. I, but the Huskies should no longer be viewed as an afterthought among Scottsdale-area schools. Desert Mountain will find that out next week.
Mesa district schools: Mountain View and Skyline (that’s not a typo) are undefeated. Westwood and Mesa are 3-1. Dobson has more wins (2) than all of last year. Now, Red Mountain — considered by many the best 0-fer team in the state — is on the board after beating Brophy in another close game, the kind Red Mountain has lost in each of the three previous weeks. There’s a long way to go this season, but also a long mountain to scale for a few of these schools beyond next week or this season. It’s OK to savor successes such as Week 4.
Chandler: Another big game against an elite, physical opponent. Maybe the reality is Mountain Pointe is currently the best team Div. I team in the state. It’s hard to argue against, and we’ll find out next week vs. Hamilton. The Wolves’ offense somehow went AWOL, and the defense and special teams were worse. It was an unusual week for Chandler having to come back from the St. John Bosco game in California, but while losing to Mountain Pointe is hardly a season-ender, the Wolves are going to need better justification for 14 points scored, three turnovers and two blocked punts than last week’s California trip.
Desert Mountain: Even though the Wolves led 28-0 in the second quarter, it was still hard to imagine Chaparral would just keel over the entire night. Injuries to Mark Andrews, linebacker Daniel Fedorka and center Christian Boettcher were a huge factor, but the Wolves had 23 carries for 81 yards (3.5 yards per carry). Chaparral defense deserves some of the credit, but this was the exact situation where Desert Mountain could have shown its ability to pound the ball and run clock against an elite team.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.