Mountain Pointe-Hamilton highlights big night in Arizona high school football
Source: AIA Blogs
Originally published: Sep 26, 2013 - 12:00 am
Originally published: Sep 26, 2013 - 12:00 am
Graphic by Ryan EscobarHamilton at No. 16 Mountain Pointe
Hamilton's game against Mountain Pointe is much-anticipated both locally and nationally, but there is another game in Arizona that is also drawing interest.
Location: Karl Kiefer Stadium
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The importance of the games, considering it is still September, can be debated. But there is no doubt about the anticipation.
It's not often that No. 1 plays No. 2 during the regular season.
It's even more unique for it to happen on the same night for Division I and Division II, as it so happens this week.
The Division I matchup of state No. 1 Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) (5-0) and No. 2 Hamilton (Chandler) (4-0) is a rematch of last year's state title game, won 31-16 by Hamilton in a battle of possibly the two best defenses in the state.
"It was real emotional walking off the field, I'll say that much," Pride senior offensive tackle Kyle Spight said. "We were all looking to come out and beat them again (Pride won 20-17 to open 2012 season). It just didn't happen.
"We definitely have the game plan this year."
About 100 miles south two of the state's most prolific offenses lock up as No. 1 Salpointe Catholic (Tucson) (4-0) hosts No. 2 Marcos de Niza (Tempe) (4-0).
Andrew Cota and Marcos' Josh Eckley, who was averaging more than 400 yards from scrimmage before an ankle injury slowed him last week.
Salpointe outscored its first four opponents — Liberty (Nev.), Sabino, Crespi (Calif.) and Sunnyside — 190-21 before last week's bye week.
"Our schedule has been brutal," Salpointe coach Dennis Bene told the Arizona Daily Star. "I don't think anybody expected us to be 4-0. But I had been telling people that we're better than we were last year; they didn't seem to believe me."
Marcos won its first games in barn burners, averaging 63.3 points a game but had a modest average margin of victory of 11.6, before winning 23-15 last week.
The Division I showdown has a boatload of storylines that have really nothing to do with the game but make for great fodder.
Both teams have been nationally ranked this season, with Hamilton opening the season at No. 14 and Mountain Pointe currently at No. 16 in the Xcellent 25.
There's also this: Mountain Pointe principal Bruce Kipper and Belles had a heated discussion on the sidelines after the latter showed up on the Pride's sidelines in Las Vegas to open the season.
While it makes for great message board material, the players are only worried about playing great football.
"We are confident we can get the job done," Pride senior linebacker Trey Lauer said. "We showed last week that we're ready to play and that's what we expect to do again this week. The coaches will put us in a spot to be successful and it's up to us to execute to the best of our ability."
Mountain Pointe has been doing just that, dispatching of Bishop Gorman in Week 1, three inferior opponents and Chandler rather easily.
Hamilton is being viewed as vulnerable because of the last two weeks. The Huskies had to hold on to beat Pinnacle on Sept. 12 and followed it up last week by squeaking past Liberty (Nev.), which was manhandled by Salpointe Catholic a month earlier.
"We are playing well with eight starters out," Belles said. "I think we had players step up in their place and that's what we needed to see."
It is unknown whether or not anyone if any of those eights players, including offensive tackle Casey Tucker and linebacker Santana Sterling, will see the field as he, smartly, wouldn't give a status update earlier this week.
Mountain Pointe is without linebacker Wesley Payne (dislocated elbow), but with his approach to the game it wouldn't be all that surprising if he wrapped the elbow and gave it a go.
"I'm wanting to go back this week to be honest, but I know that wouldn't be smart," he said.
It probably wouldn't be, but it is easy to see why anyone would want to be part of such a unique night.
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Follow on Twitter @JSkodaAFN and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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