Just play the games already.
That’s Hamilton’s sentiment because the Huskies’ last appearance in a game that counted was a thorough beating at the hands of Desert Vista in the 2011 Division I state championship. Though heavily favored, Hamilton was physically, mentally and emotionally kicked to the curb by the Thunder, then kicked around some more.
That’s also Mountain Pointe’s sentiment because the Pride, like everyone, wants to know what they have. They also remember there was a chance to knock off the mighty Huskies at this time last year and end a then-40-game winning streak. It didn’t happen as Hamilton overcame its own mistakes in a 17-7 victory.
The bitterness of last year’s conclusion to Hamilton’s season won’t melt away without a state championship (or at least a victory against Desert Vista in the playoffs) but both sides feel last year was something of an anomaly. Hamilton because the Huskies had won three consecutive big-school state championships. Mountain Pointe because of injuries and inconsistencies on offense after two years of deep postseason runs.
“We hope we can give Hamilton a good game,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “They return a lot more than we do. We think we are going to be a pretty good team, but we lost an awful lot and we have some challenges.”
Those challenges are namely offensive and apply to both schools, yet both also like the potential to have better offenses than a year ago.
The Pride believe they’ll have more balance this season with southpaw quarterback Antonio Hinojsa, a transfer from Marcos de Niza. The Huskies believe they have a stout offensive line returning from last year, plus a couple juniors in linebacker Santana Sterling, wide receiver Izzy Simpson and offensive lineman Casey Tucker.
The return of Kevin Walters from a season-long injury his junior year (he played at Desert Ridge as a sophomore) also has Belles excited.
As with most programs, Mountain Pointe won’t have Hamilton’s numbers and will two-way platoon several guys. That can be a problem in the early season heat and humidity, especially on defense if the offenses are able to move the ball as advertised.
“You never if you’re ready, but I feel much better about the offense than this time last year because of the experience up front with those lineman,” Belles said.
Both sides have speed, skill players both proven (Jalen Brown for Mountain Pointe, Cole Luke for Hamilton) and unproven, and big boys up front.
But it’s week 1, which means everything is unproven.
“This is a big momentum pusher in terms of being early in the season,” Belles said. “Let’s get back on the field and hit somebody and compete again.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.