Evidently the Hamilton football program is not a fan of sequels.
One week after Chandler beat the fifth-ranked Huskies for the first time in history, another city rival put up an eerily similar fight.
This time it was No. 6 Basha which rallied for the lead, lost it, then had a chance to win the game as the clock wound down late in the fourth quarter.
However, the Hamilton defense flipped the script, forcing a fumble and recovering it with 1:14 remaining to eke out the 32-31 victory on Friday night in a Division I matchup at Hamilton.
“These guys refused to quit,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said. “They could have folded.”
The Bears (4-3) scored 17 consecutive points in the second half to take the lead, as an 11-yard touchdown scramble by quarterback Zach Werlinger with 4:13 left put them up 31-26.
Much like last week, the Hamilton offense responded, driving down the field and grabbing the lead on a 7-yard end around by wide receiver Elijah Williams with 1:33 to go. The Huskies missed the two-point conversion, which meant Basha needed only a field goal to pick up its first career win over Hamilton.
And while Chandler navigated its way for a touchdown last week for the stunning upset, the Hamilton defense would not allow a repeat, coming up with the key forced fumble and recovery. Basha only had one timeout remaining and the Huskies took kneel-downs to end the contest.
“We came together as a defense,” defensive end Qualen Cunningham said. “We knew what we had to do. We knew we needed a stop, a turnover, and that’s exactly what we went out there and got.”
Cunningham was a constant presence in the Basha backfield, compiling five sacks and a tackle for loss.
Both teams had struggles in the punting game. The Bears had a high snap result in a safety, had another bad snap result in a tackled punter and muffed another in the return game. Hamilton muffed a punt and let a Basha drive stay alive with a roughing the punter penalty.
Hamilton running back Tyrell Smith had 21 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns while Williams had three catches for 79 yards in addition to the key rushing score. Belles said the misdirection play has worked consistently in the past two years, and felt like it had a good chance because the Basha defense would be anxious to make a stand in a crucial 3rd-and-goal situation.
Werlinger played very well for the Bears, completing 23-of-41 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more. Doc O’Connor had five catches for 119 yards and Robertson added seven receptions for 100 yards and the touchdown.
The Huskies had lost two games in a row entering this one - to Mountain Pointe and Chandler - and have never lost three in a season.
It wasn’t the cleanest of games, but Hamilton was more than happy to leave victorious despite the slim margin.
“To be able to come through, it meant a lot to me, personally,” Cunningham said. “We’ve (dealt) with a lot. To be able to come from the bottom and have people think we were going to lose again, to shove it in their face like that, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. I’m glad we came through with the ‘W’ tonight.”
Hamilton 32, Basha 31
First Downs: B 20; H 11
Rushing: B 32-61; H 38-100
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): B 23-41-304-2-0; H 11-13-201-0-1
Fumbles-lost: B 2-2; H 1-1
Penalties: B 8-100; H 9-90
Basha 0 14 3 14 -- 31
Hamilton 12 7 7 6 -- 32
H - Brown 46 FG
H - Safety
H - Smith 2 run, Brown kick
B - Robertson 25 pass from Werlinger, Thompson kick
H - Smith 1 run, Brown kick
B - Meriwether 11 pass from Werlinger, Thompson kick
H - Sasso 2 run, Brown kick
B - Thompson 29 FG
B - Werlinger 2 run, Thompson kick
B - Werlinger 11 run, Thompson kick
H - Williams 7 run, pass failed