It looked like Basha finally had Hamilton on the ropes, ready to deliver a knockout punch and earn the school’s first victory against its district rival.
But then, much like it did in the six weeks following its 0-2 start, Hamilton proved that it is, in fact, still Hamilton – the No. 1 team in the state – and came up with the clutch plays it needed to come up with for a 31-24 victory over the visiting No. 9 Bears in a Division I game Friday.
Tyrell Smith scored the game-winning touchdown, but the play of the night belonged to linebacker Luke Parrish.
On the first play after Hamilton punted late in the fourth quarter of a tie game, Parrish intercepted Basha quarterback Zach Werlinger to give the Huskies the ball back at the Basha 44.
“I saw a slant so I just broke on the play because they’ve been throwing that all game,” Parrish said. “So I just made a big play on it.”
But again, Hamilton found itself facing adversity. Following a scramble that went for a loss of three yards, the Huskies faced a 4th-and-6 from the Basha 34-yard line.
Hamilton went for it and quarterback AJ Thigpen found Tyler Eggers for a 33-yard completion that put the ball at the 1-yard line.
After Parrish came up with the big play on defense, Thigpen knew it had to be his turn to come up with his own.
“I just knew that it gave us another chance and that the game was basically on my back and I had to go out there and make a play,” Thigpen said.
Thigpen completed 10-of-21 passes for 189 yards for the Huskies (7-2).
Two plays following Eggers’ catch, Smith ran it in for the decisive score.
“I was going crazy with my teammates, but we knew we had to keep our composure because we had to make one more stop,” Parrish said. “It’s huge because they’re a Chandler rival and they talked a lot of smack during the week, but we came out on top in the end.”
Although Basha’s game plan of using a balanced offensive attack worked well all night, the game still ended as yet another loss to its rival.
“We played as hard as we could play and I’m really proud of them,” Basha coach Bernie Busken said. “It’s not acceptable to get beat, but I’m really proud of their effort.”
Turnovers once again came back to haunt the Bears (6-3). Basha threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles.
“Made a couple of little mistakes,” Busken said.
Despite the loss, Busken felt that Friday’s performance could still give his team confidence and momentum going forward into the final week and beyond.
“It’s a good sign for us,” Busken said. “We’re getting better, but we’ve still got to get better.”
Thigpen felt that this close win showed that Hamilton is close to becoming a complete team just in time for the playoffs.
“We’re almost a complete team,” Thigpen said. “We have little things that we can do better; each week that’s our goal and I think we can get there by the end of the year.”
B - 3 14 0 7 -- 24
H - 0 14 0 17 -- 31
First Downs: B 18; H 15
Rushes-Yards: B 44-252; H 44-224
Passing Yards: B 140; H 189
Comp-Att-INT: B 16-34-2; H 10-21-0
Fumbles-Lost: B 2-2; H 1-1
Penatlies-Yards: B 1-15; H 6-40
B – Day 32 FG
H – Smith 5 run (Krcilek kick)
B – Phillips 2 run (Day kick)
H – Thigpen 11 run (Krcilek kick)
B – Marxman 13 pass from Werlinger (Day kick)
H – Luke 50 punt return (Krcilek kick)
B – Marxman 2 run (Day kick)
H – Krcilek 25 FG
H – Smith 1 run (Krcilek kick)