It’s 2012 all over again. Through last-second football bracket seeding shifts, a downpour or two and three extra days of waiting, the 2013 football season will end as last season did:
Mountain Pointe vs. Hamilton.
It’s a rematch of the 2012 championship game, won going away by Hamilton. It’s also a redux of the much-ballyhooed meeting from late September, a 37-27 victory for Mountain Pointe.
It’s universally acknowledged the Pride have been the best Div. I team all season.
Seems like a slam dunk, right?
As anyone who’s attempted to beat Hamilton twice in the same season can attest, probably not.
Who knows what’ll happen with an unusual four-day turnaround between games, but here’s our best-guess breakdown:
Aware of its relative limitations, Hamilton has found its way the past couple weeks with a power running game setting up QB Sam Sasso in play-action and bootlegs to find Elijah Williams and co. in the passing game. With a healthier offensive line and Tyrell Smith (three touchdowns vs. Chandler), the Huskies must be physical and run the ball in order to set up the passing game, which they’ll absolutely need to make some plays because one-dimensional doesn’t work against Mountain Pointe (as Desert Ridge found out Monday night). Mountain Pointe plays much the same way, a good offensive line with power-and-speed combinations in the backfield in Wesley Payne (albeit hobbled after suffering an ankle injury against Desert Ridge) and Paul Lucas. The duo is dynamic, and sets up Antonio Hinojosa throwing to Jalen Brown and Timmy Hernandez. Hinojosa has been outstanding all season with a 70 percent completion rate, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions, and it helps have Natrell Curtis and a physical offensive line in front of him.
Advantage: Mountain Pointe
Here’s a strength vs. strength. Hamilton’s defense has wavered a bit at times this season, but the Huskies’ defensive line is stout, led by Qualen Cunningham and Caleb Peart and a linebacker group led by Santana Sterling. It seemed clear to most observers in the first matchup that Mountain Pointe’s speed was a notch above the Huskies the first time, but Hamilton is a very good tackling team. How well the Huskies can cover Brown and Hernandez (perhaps on an “island” more often than not) will be key, because if the Huskies have to use safeties in the running game, it opens up Brown to make his patented big plays. Mountain Pointe showed it could stop smash-mouth football in a big way by holding Desert Ridge’s Taren Morrison to 105 yards (most of which came with the game already decided). The Pride are fast and stout tacklers led by Payne, Trey Lauer and Mitchell Fraboni, and have a really good cover corner in Brown. Mountain Pointe is going to get a heavy dose of Hamilton’s offensive line, a better line than the first time around.
Partially because of injuries to Brandon Krcilek and others during the season, the Huskies have struggled significantly in stretches this season. Some of it injury-related, some of it not. Though the Huskies have taken strides in recent weeks, and got a couple big returns from Tyrell Smith in recent weeks. Mountain Pointe has been solid in special teams with Ryan Sheehan (who’s also dealt with injuries) and the speedy Lucas is always a threat for a big play.
Advantage: Mountain Pointe
Nobody has beaten Hamilton twice in the same season in the Huskies’ history (most of the time the Huskies don’t lose twice in a season, period). The Huskies are rare-underdogs in this game, a rarity, but one they’re sure to use any way they can to their advantage. Mountain Pointe, howevever, also feels this is its team of teams, and, with so many starters and significant contributors back from last year’s team that lost to Hamilton, have an “it’s our turn” mentality. The talent edge favors Mountain Pointe, but there’s also something to be said between teams who’ve won here vs. been here.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.