You'd think Hamilton coach Steve Belles would be used to this by now.
Reggie Daniels' 25-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter capped a run of 17 points in less than three minutes as the top-seeded Huskies cruised past No. 5 Mountain Pointe, 34-10, in the 5A-I semifinals on Friday night at Chandler.
Hamilton advances to the 5A-I state title game against Desert Ridge next Monday.
While it is Belles' ninth trip to a championship game, he said the senses haven't been dulled by the frequency of the trips.
"It doesn't get boring," Belles said. "People ask me, ‘Well, is it old hat?' Never. It's hard to get here."
The Huskies are trying to become the second team in 5A to win the state championship three consecutive times. Peoria Centennial did it from 2006-08 in 5A-II. It would also give them four state titles in five seasons and six since 2003.
"We've still got one more hurdle to go," Belles said.
The Pride looked to be doing well when it forced a field goal with 11:12 remaining in the second quarter, falling behind by a manageable 10 points. However, Kendyl Taylor followed that up with 67-yard touchdown run, and then Daniels picked off Mountain Pointe quarterback Kyle Faunce for the score, and the rout was on.
Hamilton stretched the lead to 34-3 late in the third quarter on a touchdown pass from Kyren Poe to Steve Henson, and Mountain Pointe got its only touchdown of the night with under a minute remaining.
"They're a class program and a great team," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "I mean, a great team."
Hamilton offensive lineman Christian Westerman, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident, returned to the Hamilton starting lineup after missing the first two playoff games because of an injured knee, but only lasted a series.
He injured the knee again on the game's opening drive and didn't return, but said he would play in the championship contest.
"I got in there for a drive and we scored, so that was cool," Westerman said. "I got it hurt in a pile, but I'll definitely be able to play."
Hamilton quarterback Kyren Poe finished the game with 103 rushing yards, 94 passing yards and two total touchdowns. Taylor added 92 rushing yards and the long score.
The Hamilton defensive line pressured Faunce all night and had six sacks, and the Pride could only muster 53 yards rushing on 30 carries.
The Huskies have not seen Desert Ridge this season, but Belles wasn't taking the Jaguars lightly. Desert Ridge has won eight straight games.
"We're going to play probably the best team (possible), as hot as they are," Belles said.