The 5A state championship game held Saturday at a wet Sun Devil stadium was thought to be the classic matchup of David vs. Goliath. Hamilton, last years defending champ taking on #16 seed and playoff Cinderella Mt.Ridge.
In the first quarter it looked like Mt.Ridge would continue slaying giants as they opened on their first play with QB Austin Martin hitting WR Josh Morrow on a thirty-nine yards pass. The drive continued but stalled and Mt.Ridge had to settle for attempting a forty-two yard field goal that was no good. Later in the quarter Mt.Ridge again moved the ball deep into Hamilton territory but Husky DB Clark Lamb intercepted an Austin Martin pass stopping the scoring threat. Keeping the score at the end of the first quarter a 0 to 0 tie.
After having limited opportunities in the first quarter due to Mt.Ridge controlling the ball, Hamilton quickly took advantage of their first possession of the second quarter. Using the offensive blueprint that got them to the championship game, Hamilton used a combination of sprint action passing, the option, and quick hits by Cody Engelbrecht to move the ball into Mt.Ridge territory. On 2nd & 6 from the twenty-seven yard line WR Mekell Wesley drew single coverage and was able to beat Austin Martin with a double move for a TD pass. PAT good. Hamilton 7 Mt.Ridge 0
On the following drive, Mt.Ridge was unable to get anything going as Hamilton Jr. DE Dontay Moch dropped Martin twice behind the line of scrimmage. After this defensive stop, Hamilton used two big runs off the option to set up their next score moving the ball again to the Mt.Ridge twenty-seven. Travis Dixon hit TE Scott Campos up the seam for a TD. PAT good. Hamilton 14 Mt.Ridge 0
On the next Mt.Ridge possession, the Hamilton D forces a three and out after LB Miles Posz sniffs out middle screen and tackles Mt.Ridge RB Nick Bell for a loss. Hamilton gets the ball around midfield and again moves quickly with nice runs by Engelbrecht and a Dixon completion to Jessie Matlock. The completion to Matlock had Hamilton in 4th and 1 on the four yard line. Hamilton lined up in Power I and Dixon sprinted right and found TE Derek Meyer for a TD. PAT good. 21-0 Hamilton. Mt.Ridge is unable to get anything going the remainder of the quarter and Hamilton gets a field goal from Dominic Papa to make the score at half Hamilton 24 Mt.Ridge 0.
The 3rd quarter Mt.Ridge seems to gain some momentum as they stop the Hamilton opening drive on a 4th down play. Any momentum gained by this defensive stop is quickly gone when Mt.Ridge is forced to punt and Mekell Wesley takes off forty-two yards putting the ball well into Mt.Ridge territory. On the third of three option plays in a row Travis Dixon goes in from the four yard line for a TD. PAT good. Hamilton 31 Mt.Ridge 0. On the ensuing possession, Mt.Ridge is able to move for the first time since the opening quarter and gets down to the Hamilton twenty-three when Hamilton DB Justin Harper intercepts a Martin pass in the endzone and runs it out to the thirty-five. With this threat extinguished the quarter eventually ends with Hamilton still in the lead 31 to 0.
In the fourth quarter a glimmer of hope for Mt.Ridge takes place as Austin Martin is able to return a Dixon interception ninety yards for a Ridge TD (extra point good.) This is followed by a successful onside kick by Mt.Ridge but the Hamilton D makes a nice stand and forces a 3 and out. The last minutes of the game, Hamilton coach John Wrenn does a good job getting his starters out for a nice round of applause and allowing some backups playing time in the state championship as Hamilton repeats, winning 31 to 7.
Bottom Line: Mt.Ridge started well, following the game plan holding on to the ball most of the 1st quarter yet they were unable to get scores out of long drives. When given the opportunity, Hamilton took care of business and effectively ended this game with a twenty-four point 2nd quarter on the way to back to back titles. Mt.Ridge did a great job to get to this game as a #16 seed. Coach Belles, his staff and players had a great season.
Game Ball: The Hamilton D. Throughout playoffs Mt.Ridge has averaged thirty-eight points and 370 rush yards a game. The Husky D blanked the Mt.Ridge O by containing Martin and not allowing Bell to get rolling off the edges. In almost every key situation Hamilton defensive players made the play. Once again on the offensive side Travis Dixon gets a game ball. He does a great job running the Hamilton O and always makes the plays. He is so smooth and efficient as a player you lose sight of how good he really is. There are very few QBs that have back to back titles at any level, high school, college or pro.