When you’ve won 28 of 30 games over the past three seasons, with two state titles and a runner-up finish, you’re seeking a challenge. In Chandler Hamilton’s case tonight, it’s the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge.
The Huskies face the unknown when they tangle with Massillon Washington, one of Ohio’s entries in the final game of the 10-game challenge at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
So what does Hamilton coach Steve Belles know of his cross-country foe? The basics.
“They’re big, physical,” Belles said of the 2-1 Tigers. “It’s Midwest football. Smashmouth. The style doesn’t matter. You want to see all facets because you never know what you’ll face down the road. It was good for us to see Red Mountain come with something they’d never done. Each game tells you a little something about the kids.”
Hamilton played more polished in topping Paradise Valley last week, 49-7, after its week off following Mesa Red Mountain. The constant for Hamilton thus far has been the passing game, keyed by senior quarterback Brad Gruner and wideouts Kerry Taylor and Trey Peacock. They’ve combined for 24 of the Huskies’ 31 receptions. Gruner has passed for 424 yards and two touchdowns.
Hamilton, which has given up just 14 points in its first two games, must adjust to a disruption in routine. Belles won’t let his team off the hook with the distraction of the game and the sightseeing surrounding it.
“It’s kind of like a bowl game,” Belles said. “You take it for what it is, but you know what the purpose is. I hate even thinking of that because it’s another excuse for why you’d lose.”
Washington, which was the state runner-up in its conference last season, is coming off its first loss, falling to Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller, 48-14, last week. The Tigers had five turnovers in the game.
Washington is led by running back Brian Gamble, who has rushed for 307 yards and six touchdowns in three games. Quarterback Bobby Huth has passed for 444 yards and five touchdowns. He is questionable after taking a shot in the head in the second half of last week’s game.
Hamilton at Washington
When: 5 p.m. today
Where: Massillon, Ohio
Records: Hamilton 2-0; Washington 2-1
TV: Cox Ch. 7