Last Friday’s Division I game of the week featured cross city rivals, top ranked Hamilton and #6 Chandler. Perhaps it’s unfair to dub this a rivalry since Hamilton had won all 14 previous meetings, including a 38-20 win last year. Add to that the state record 45 game winning streak that Hamilton was riding, and it looked improbable for a Chandler upset.
The Hamilton Huskies set the tone early, taking a 10-0 lead in the 2nd quarter, while Chandler’s first two possessions couldn’t generate a first down. Momentum swung on their third possession however, with Chandler’s Javon Williams hauling in a 72-yard bomb. After a second Hamilton field goal, Chandler scored again on a play action pass from quarterback Darell Garretson to take a 14-13 lead into the half. The Chandler Wolves looked ready to finally snap the losing streak.
Starting the second half, Chandler increased the lead with a touchdown run by Laron Tarkington, making it 21-13. Their defense began to build confidence as well, holding Hamilton to short possessions and tough yards. Even after a botched fake punt gave the Huskies the ball deep in Chandler territory, the Wolves held Hamilton on fourth and four. With possession and the lead going into the final quarter, the upset was within grasp.
Unfortunately for Chandler, Garretson had exited with leg cramps late in the third quarter, and the offense sputtered as a result. Backup Jackson Caldwell fumbled while trying to extend for a first down and Hamilton returned it for a touchdown early in the fourth. The two-point conversion failed and Chandler clung to a 21-19 lead. Soon after, Chandler fumbled again, this time recovering in their own end zone for a safety and a tie game. The momentum had completely shifted and a collapse was looking ominous. The next big play came from Hamilton running back Kenyl Taylor. Taylor ripped off a 44-yard reverse for a score, highlighted by him somehow tiptoeing the boundary line (pictured) to finish the run. Garretson tried to return and give Chandler a chance, but was concussed on a third down play with under six minutes to go. Fittingly, Chandler’s last gasp on fourth and 16 ended with another lost fumble, their fifth of the quarter and fourth lost.
It was truly a great effort for Chandler, but the turnovers were the difference and ball security will no doubt be preached in practice. Give credit to the Hamilton Huskies. They responded to the pressure of the situation when nothing seemed to be going their way. It’s the sign of a great team and should help them if again faced with adversity on their way to another state title run. Here’s to hoping these two teams meet again in the playoffs for another incredible game.