If you believe the adage that offense wins games and defense wins championships, then where does that leave special teams?
If you’re Hamilton, it leaves you with your first win of the season. If you’re Notre Dame Prep, it leaves you scratching your head.
Hamilton’s special teams dominated Notre Dame on Friday night, and its defense wasn’t far behind as the Huskies thrashed the visiting Saints 58-0.
In a matchup of No. 8 teams -- Hamilton (1-2) in Division I and Notre Dame (1-2) in Division II -- the guests never made it a contest.
Trevor Lane blocked a pair of punts, both of which were returned for scores, Cole Luke returned a punt for a touchdown and A.J. Thigpen ran for two scores to lead the Huskies in the rout. And Hamilton’s defense was no slouch, allowing 18 total yards while registering five sacks, which led to minus-1 yards rushing, and intercepting a pair of passes.
“The intensity of practice this week was crazy different,” said Lane, a senior linebacker who easily blocked both punts sprinting in from the right edge. “Before, we were flat. This week, we were excited. We knew we were going to win.”
Hamilton scored 20 points in a span of 3:16 in the first and second quarters to break the game open.
Thigpen weaved through the middle of Notre Dame’s defense, then shook off a tackle at the Saints’ 25 yard line en route to a 48-yard scoring run to make it 14-0. Less than two minutes later, Lane blocked his first punt, which Luke Parrish returned 8 yards for a score. And four plays later, Luke returned a punt 43 yards for a touchdown, giving Hamilton a 27-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
“It was our focus this week,” said Luke, normally a defensive back who saw his first extensive action on offense Friday and caught a 50-yard pass on the game’s first play. “We were focused every day in practice on every drill.”
Notre Dame coach Gary Gregory took the blame for his team’s showing.
“Maybe I’m not doing a good enough job with the little things,” he said. “When you have plays like that on special teams, it’s probably my fault. I need to get the kids to work harder.”
The Huskies led 30-0 at the half and went up 37-0 to begin the third quarter on Thigpen’s 23-yard scoring run. He finished with 80 yards rushing and 189 passing.
“Our practices were more up-tempo this week,” said Thigpen, who also had a 45-yard touchdown run negated by a penalty. “We wanted to get quicker with each play and possession. It finally felt like we were more confident.”
Lane’s second blocked punt was returned 10 yards by Brady Denton for a 44-0 Hamilton lead.
“We saw they changed their blocking schemes a little,” Lane said. “We made a couple adjustments, which got us to the punter. It was just great coaching.”
The Saints never moved the ball past Hamilton’s 38-yard-line, and their average starting field position in the first half was their own 20. Hamilton’s starting position was Notre Dame’s 48.
Hamilton backup quarterback Sam Sasso threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, an 18-yarder to Elijah Williams and a 38-yarder to Stevon Adams.
Hamilton 58, Notre Dame 0
ND – 0 0 0 0 – 0
H – 20 10 14 14 – 58
H – Walter 1 run (Wickman kick)
H – Thigpen 48 run (Wickman kick)
H – Parrish 8 punt block return (run failed)
H – Luke 43 punt return (Wickman kick)
H – Wickman 23 FG
H – Thigpen 23 run (Wickman kick)
H – Denton 10 punt return (Wickman kick)
H – Williams 18 pass from Sasso (Wickman kick)
H – Adams 38 pass from Sasso (Wickman kick)
First downs 3 10
Rushes-yards 16-(-1) 26-163
Passing yards 19 189
Comp-att-int 7-19-2 10-13-0
Penalties-yards 4-30 7-70
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0