GLENDALE - Times like these are precious.
It was pretty clear Desert Vista felt that way Saturday before every snap of the ball when quarterback Hunter Rodriguez stood behind center, not only surveying the Hamilton defense, but lengthening each Thunder possession.
The decision to shorten the game, along with big plays from the defense, went a long way in helping No. 3 Desert Vista stun No. 1 Hamilton, 45-19 for the Division I state championship at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It gives the Thunder (13-1) their second state title in school history, matching the 1998 squad, in their third appearance and kept Hamilton (13-1) from becoming the state's first ever big-school four-peat champion.
"It's unbelievable and I don't know what think," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said before taking the podium to accept the golden ball trophy.
The game started exactly the way an underdog needed as Desert Vista scored on its first two possessions with an interception return for a return in between for a 21-0 lead with 7 minutes and 46 seconds left in the first half.
The Thunder, rarely snapping the ball before 5 seconds left on play clock, led the time of posession 30:21 to 17:39 overall, including 17:38 of the all-important 24-minute first half.
"You can do that when you have a smart quarterback," Hinds said. "He managed the offense exactly the way we drew it up."
The quick 14-0 lead to start the game was courtesy of 45-yard opening kickoff return by Ryan Wagner to set up the first touchdown drive when Jarek Hilgers scored from a yard out on 4th down and Matt Young's 44-yard interception return for a touchdown on Hamilton's first possession.
It was the first time Hamilton trailed by 21 points since Oct. 22, 2004. It wasn't the last time the Huskies, who entered the game with the nation's longest winning streak at 53, lost, but there haven't been many in between, either.
The Desert Vista offense, which was limited to 132 yards rushing in the first game, had Rodriguez audible, sometimes moving tackle J.J. Dielman from one side to the other, depending on what the Husky defense presented.
"In the first game that stopped us at the line," junior guard/center Zack Tamburo said. "We had to change it up and took some stuff from Stanford to confuse them and it worked. We got all the right calls and made the holes."
This time the Thunder never punted in accumulating 361 total yards, including 184 yards on the ground. They had only one turnover and penalty all game.
It led to just about a perfect 48 minutes of football.
"We told you we were going to do it," junior Kaleb Germinaro said. "We told you we were going to do it. No one believed us.
"The defense played great, the offense did everything we wanted and the coaches put us in a position to do it."
The second half was more of the same, although they went to the air a little more in the third quarter, including Rodriguez's 54-yard pass to Matt Geranen, to set up Germinaro's 21-yard score in the third quarter for a 28-7 lead.
Hamilton's first possession of the second half ended on its own 49-yard line when the Husky quarterback Blake Kemp was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 by a surging Thunder front.
Desert Vista was unable to turn the great field position into points when Scotty Goldfein missed a 51-yard field goal when it the left goal post and caromed toward the field of play.
The Thunder defense did its part too of course as they forced Kemp into bad decisions, corralled Washington recruit Kendyl Taylor in the early going and won the battle up front on key plays like the 4th down play on Hamilton's first possession of the second half.
Hamilton's last possession ended when junior Nick Farina intercepted Blake Kemp on a diving play.
"I was waiting for that all game," Farina said. "That is something I will always remember."
The game tempo was a similar scenario to the first meeting of the season won 35-10 by Hamilton as the Huskies played its best game of the season and the Thunder was a bit off and never really challenged.
Desert Vista pretty much announced its presence with authority from the start, letting the Huskies know No. 54 wasn't going to come easy.
The Thunder had been 0-5 against Hamilton with three of those defeats coming within the win streak.
It led to the sentiment that Hamilton was going to waltz to its seventh title in nine years.
"We didn't care what they had because we knew what we had," Geranen said. "We did exactly what we expected to do."
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