A powerful, physical running game.
A swarming, opportunistic defense.
A trip to the Division I state semifinals.
Check, check and check for the third-seeded Hamilton Huskies.
Hamilton overcame a sloppy first half and completely dominated the second half to defeat sixth-seeded Pinnacle 40-14 in the Division I state quarterfinals on Friday at Hamilton High School.
Tyrell Smith wore down the Pinnacle defense with his powerful running attack and Santana Sterling helped the Huskies' defense wreak havoc on the Pioneers’ offense.
"That’s team football,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said. “It’s not about offense, it’s not about defense; it’s about us.”
Smith rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns for the Huskies (10-2).
“That was our goal. We just wanted to give it to Smith and pound them,” Hamilton quarterback Sam Sasso said.
The productive running game helped open up the passing game for Sasso, who finished with 211 passing yards and two touchdowns.
“The O-line gave me time, and the receivers, I just got to give them a chance,” Sasso said.
The Huskies' defense also did its part in setting up the offense with good field position. The defense, led by Sterling, pressured Pinnacle quarterback Brian Lewerke all night. The constant pressure caused Lewerke to throw three interceptions after getting picked off just four times in the regular season.
“The defensive staff, with Lane Reynolds, did a great job putting in a great game plan against, I think, one of the best quarterbacks in the state,” Belles said. “To be honest with you, that’s probably as good as we have played defensively.”
AJ Greathouse, Juwan Jones and Sterling each had an interception for Hamilton.
The dominating performance was in stark contrast to Week 3 when the Huskies had to rally past the Pioneers (9-3) in the fourth quarter to come away with a 24-20 victory.
“I think we got the same team, but we got a better game for sure,” Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke said. “They were definitely physical on the defensive side, but the difference was they capitalized on our mistakes.”
It wasn’t always a pretty picture for Hamilton in this game, though. The Huskies fumbled three times (and lost two, one on the game’s first play from scrimmage), were called for two personal fouls and missed an extra-point attempts in the first half. The Huskies went into the locker room leading just 13-7.
“We drove them down with the personal fouls and the two turnovers,” Belles said. “Then we got our act together and really played a complete game tonight.”
Next up, Hamilton will have its chance for revenge against second-seeded Chandler in the Division I semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday at Highland High School. The Huskies lost for the first time ever in the series in Week 6, when the Wolves rallied with two scores in the final minute for a 26-16 victory.
“We’re excited, we want the challenge,” Sasso said. “We know they’re a great football team, but we’ll be ready.”
Chandler defeated 10th-seeded Basha 49-21 to advance to the semifinals.
“Our kids are looking forward to it,” Belles said. “The city will go crazy over it. We know we’ve got a small part of the city, but we’ll take that part and bring it with us.”
Hamilton 40, Pinnacle 14
First Downs: Ham. 16, Pinn. 12
Rushing: Ham. 50-250, Pinn. 30-80
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): Ham. 12-18-211-2-1, Pinn. 12-38-159-2-3
Fumbles-lost: Ham. 4-2, Pinn. 0-0
Penalties-yards: Ham. 5-60, Pinn. 3-35
Pinnacle 7 0 7 0 -- 14
Hamilton 7 6 20 7 -- 40
H: Williams 65 pass from Sasso (Brown kick)
P: Rose 7 pass from Lewerke (Larson kick)
H: Smith 1 run (kick failed)
P: Rose 36 pass from Lewerke (Larson kick)
H: Williams 13 run (run failed)
H: Smith 11 run (Brown kick)
H: Smith 4 run (Brown kick)
H: Williams 25 pass from Sasso (Brown kick)