Considering the surroundings, the Mountain Pointe players held it together pretty well while everything around them probably felt like it was closing in on them.
The stage was being built near the Hamilton sideline in order for the Pride to accept the Division I state runner-up trophy and the emotions were flowing pretty heavily.
In time it will look good in the trophy case at the school or in the new locker room, but on Saturday it was difficult to accept.
Senior Kenny Lacy, Garette Craig and Aaron Blank joined coach Norris Vaughan on the podium.
“They played a great game against us, and it would be more upsetting if I felt like we didn’t do our best, but I felt like my boys played hard today,” Lacy said. “(Hamilton) played great today and we can’t make any excuses about it.”
Hamilton started the year 0-2 for the first time in school history and had a long flight home from Ireland to think about it.
“It was a pretty quiet flight,” senior quarterback AJ Thigpen said. “We felt like we wasted our money, but it showed us we had a lot of work to do.”
It led to a string of 12 straight wins as Hamilton won its seventh overall title as the Huskies move into second place in Arizona history for big schools, one behind Mesa Mountain View.
St. Mary’s, Chaparral and Saguaro have six.
Hamilton coach Steve Belles won his fifth with the Huskies, tying him with Jesse Parker for most big-school state titles for coaches.
“It was a great team win,” Belles said. “They are all sweet, but how we started and how we finished made makes this one to remember. It was a special group and it won’t be forgotten by anyone at Hamilton anytime soon. ”
Mountain Pointe’s Trey Lauer missed most of the second half with a toe injury, while sophomore center Collin Lambdin injured his left knee but returned.
Hamilton’s final score of the first half, to go up 17-0, came after a fourth-down-and-6 conversion when Elijah Williams went for 25 yards on a reverse.
“We made too many mistakes on defense,” said senior Landry Payne, who had a sack, tackle for a loss and fumble recovery. “We didn’t make the plays we made been making all year long.”
Mountain Pointe’s two lowest rushing totals of the season have come against Hamilton, gaining 76 yards in the title game and 149 in Week 1.
Jalen Brown’s interception gave the team 19 for the season to tie the school record. It gives Brown 13 for his career, one off the school record set by Mike Collins from 1992-94.
Hamilton had five tackles for loss and two sacks and created four turnovers.
Junior linebacker Wesley Payne had 13 more tackles (10 solo) to give him the season record for solo tackles at 112, breaking Joey Leal’s mark of 96 set in 2009. He had 161 total tackles on the season.
Other than 268-yard rushing performance by Brophy’s Marche Dennard, opposing running backs haven’t fared well against the Pride defense, but Hamilton’s Kevin Walters was pretty impressive in gaining 125 yards on 25 carries, especially considering he missed some time with a bruised knee.
Superman flies again
A week after making a spectacular catch in the semifinals, junior Emmanuel Butler was at it again.
The junior scored the Pride’s first touchdown when he went high for a ball, was mugged by the defender and the ball landed in Butler’s chest when was on the ground for a 13-yard score.
Waiting for next year
Mountain Pointe junior Kawuan Ellis joined the season about halfway through after spending time at both Mountain Pointe and Cesar Chavez the last couple of years.
He ended up contributing, mostly on kick returns, and said the loss will push the remaining players all summer long.
“I am so happy to be involved with team,” he said. “We are going to remember and do whatever it takes to get back here and win it.”
Got that ring – again
Hamilton senior Aric Burks made it 2-for-2 after transferring over from Desert Vista this offseason.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound defensive lineman was smiling from ear-to-ear as the Huskies celebrated.
“The move to Hamilton went great and they welcomed me with open arms,” Burks said. “This couldn’t have happened any better.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatue.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.