Division I, Section II
Coach: Steve Belles
Last year’s record: 15-0, won 5A Division I state championship
Returning starters offense: 1, running back Kendyl Taylor, a top all-around athlete out of the backfield in both running and receiving who’s committed to the University of Washington. He rushed for 784 yards and nine touchdowns and caught 48 passes for 713 yards and five scores in 2010.
Returning starters defense: 4, including safety Reggie Daniels, an all-region safety who had three interceptions and 46 tackles in 2010. His hitting and blitzing abilities have Pac-12 schools, plus Boise State and Arkansas, in the collegiate mix.
Aug. 26 vs. Mountain Pointe; Sept. 2 vs. Santa Fe (Calif.); Sept. 9 at Notre Dame; Sept. 16 at Desert Ridge; Sept. 23 vs. Mesquite; Sept. 30 at Chandler; Oct. 6 at Desert Vista; Oct. 14 vs. Dobson; Oct. 20 at Basha; Oct. 28 vs. Corona del Sol
Sept. 9 at Notre Dame: The first couple weeks of Hamilton’s schedule are interesting, with a Mountain Pointe rematch and the unknowns of Santa Fe, but the Saints ought to be interesting. A 4A Division II school that petitioned up to Division I, the Saints offense has a passing game with QB Jordan Gehrke the Huskies may not have previously seen, and both teams will represent Arizona in Ireland in 2012.
Sept. 16 at Desert Ridge: A payback game perhaps after last season’s 5A-I title game, but it certainly puts Hamilton’s current 40-game winning streak in jeopardy. No doubt the defense will be tested in a big way, but how well the offense comes along could be the difference here.
Oct. 20 at Basha: Inasmuch as they’ve been the same level and in the same city for a decade, these two schools have never played each other in the regular season. A TV game on a Thursday night makes no difference in adding intrigue.
Will this be just the latest of same ol’ same ol’ seasons for Hamilton, running through the regular season and hoisting a fourth consecutive state championship?
Perhaps, but if that happens, it won’t be handed to them on a silver platter. As much as there can be for Hamilton, reclamation projects will be part of the 2011 season, most notably on the offensive line.
The big-time veteran talents of the past couple years have graduated, and the perennially deep Huskies are looking at a senior, junior and possibly sophomores at center and left tackle.
“You have to pay the piper now,” Huskies coach Steve Belles said of his new O-line. “It makes it fun, you have to coach kids up, you don’t put it on cruise control because you know they don’t know. It’s hard to be great if you’re working on being average so we’re putting in (overtime) with these kids.”
Similar things can be said for other positions — wide receiver, linebacker, defensive line — where talent abounds but experience lacks, moreso offensively since former wideout Nic Henson moved to linebacker.
There is, as usual, plenty here to build around. Blake Kemp is the latest in a long line of efficient, dual-threat quarterbacks who’ve come through the program. Kendyl Taylor is a huge threat out of the backfield, while DL Jaxon Hood and DBs Reggie Daniels and Robert Milus are in charge of the defense.
Belles loves the potential, especially junior running back Frankie Felix (sat out last year after moving from Basha), Justin Thymes, Clayton Stanchik and sophomore WR Izzy Simpson, who Belles said could be the best wideout he’s ever had at the school.
The wily wisdom of experience has largely been lost. Then again, so was the 2008 team and that worked out well.
“We’ll be young but real good,” Belles said. “We’ll go through some stuff, and the mental side will be the biggest hurdle. They have to grow up in a hurry.”