Highland Hawks vs. Hamilton Huskies
What a match up for this semi-final game at Tempe's McClintock High School. Highland has a 9-game winning streak going, brining that momentum into the playoffs. Hamilton, who had their 20-game win streak cut short by Highland a few weeks ago, is coming off a superb performance against a strong Salpointe team. The first-half lived up to the hype.
Highland won the toss and elected to receive the ball. #24, Raphael Mack fielded the ball and scampered past mid-field to the Hamilton 49 yard line. Highland quickly began handing the ball off, starting with stud John Hershberger. At one point Highland recovered their own fumble before QB Ryan Fair lost the ball on a pass play and Hamilton recovered on the 35 yard line. Hamilton also started with the run game, giving the ball to the ever reliable Cody Engelbrecht. But Highland was quick to pressure Hamilton QB Travis Dixon in the pocket and Raphael Mack intercepted the pass, only the third of the year for Dixon. Going back to basics, Highland moved the ball down the field with their powerful duo of #23 Wesley Orth and #25 John Hershberger. In steps Hamilton's #13, Gerald Munns with a tackle for loss to force the Hawks to kick a field goal.
Dixon then began to show his legs, keeping the ball on an option run, taking it twelve yards. But Highland's #66, Ty Porter, flushed Dixon from the pocket on the next play, allowing Wesley Orth to sack Dixon for a 4 yard loss. After showing his stuff on another option run and a short gain on a wing pass to Mekell Wesley, Dixon was again sacked, this time Ty Porter was able to drag his down with some help from Wesley Orth. Dixon then missed a wide open #81 Zach Hanneman, bringing in #16 Dominic Papa to attempt the field goal. The kick had the distance, but looked to be just outside the goal post, though it was curving in. The kick was no good, giving the ball back to Highland. Hamilton wasted no time stopping Highland, with a sack by #15 Dontay Moch inside the 5 yard line on second down, forcing Highland to pooch kick the ball on 3rd and 24. Once Hamilton had the ball, they turned back to the run game to get them moving. Though Highland showed some toughness against the run, the option run with Dixon and Mekell Wesley was just too much, with Wesley scoring from 2 yards out on the option at the beginning of the second quarter. HIGHLAND 3, HAMILTON 7
Hamilton's defense really stepped it up on the next series, with linebacker Gerald Munns dropping Hershberger behind the line for a loss. Highland had to punt the ball away, allowing Mekell Wesley to show his stuff on the return when he took the ball to the Highalnd 38 yard line. After a few good runs up the middle by Cody Engelbrecht and Dixon, Highland was able to stop an option run. Hamilton kicked the field goal to bring the score to 3-10, Hamilton. Highland began stopping themselves, committing a penalty on second and long which lost them a down. They had to punt the ball away. Again, Hamilton rushed the ball up the middle with #1 Cody Engelbrecht and ran the option outside with Dixon keeping it most of the time. After moving the ball down the field, Highland's #66 Ty Porter was able top put some pressure on Travis Dixon. A few plays later, Hamilton kicked another field goal, with left in the game. After getting the ball back, Highland went to the play action pass, moving the ball down the field in a hurry. With 17 seconds remaining in the half, Highland attempted a long field goal with the ball missing just short. Half time: HIGHLAND 3, HAMILTON 13.
The second half pretty much belonged to Hamilton. Dixon and Wesley put on a show, moving the ball with apparent ease most of the time. With left in the 3rd quarter, Mekell Wesley found the end zone at the end of a 13 yard run. Highland put forth a valiant effort on its next drive. Mixing it up with runs by Orth and Hershberger and some passes to Mack and #11 Shaun Fitzpatrick, Highland was able to drive the ball down and score on 7 yard pass to Fitzpatrick. 10-20 Hamilton. Hamilton was stopped on its next drive, mostly due to some tremendous effort by #66, Ty Porter. A play fake was smothered by his tenacity, and a few plays later he sacked Dixon, forcing Hamilton to punt the ball with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. After a few incomplete passes by Fair, Hamilton's #35 Clark Lamb intercepted the ball and returned it 29 yards for the touchdown, making the score 10-27 in favor of Hamilton. Highland was forced to punt on it's next possession, thanks in part to a batted pass by #84 Brian Dean. Highland was unable to stop the many threats Hamilton can put on the field. If it wasn't Engelbrecht up the middle or on the option outside, it was Dixon and Wesley with the option run outside. With remaining in the game, Mekell Wesley took a pitch untouched to the end zone. Highland again was forced to punt on its next possession. With the game put away, Hamilton ran some run plays to eat up the clock and ran the clock out with a punt. HIGHLAND 10, HAMILTON 34.
Bottom Line: A stalwart defense and a multitude of threats on offense, Hamilton is the team to beat in 5A.
Hamilton: The entire team. They looked prepared and focused, with only a few slipups during the game. They worked together and the results show it, even against a highly talented Highland team.
Highland: Ty Porter was the defensive playmaker. This game would have been blown wide-open early if it hadn't been for him. Also Shaun Fitzpatrick for playing well on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.