Hamilton-Mtn. Pointe leftovers
A few thoughts and tidbits of randomness in the wake of Hamilton’s 31-16 win over Mountain Pointe on Saturday:
–Maybe nerves got the best of Mountain Pointe, a school which hadn’t been to the big stage before. Maybe it was the noon kickoff. Maybe it was nothing. Regardless, the Pride couldn’t match Hamilton out of the gate, and it wound up being the afternoon’s standard.
Hamilton exherted its will from the opening kickoff, and ran it right at Mountain Pointe’s defense. The Pride’s decision to defer on the opening kickoff until the second half ultimately worked against them in a big way.
That was the plan for the Huskies, to wear down Mountain Pointe’s talented but thin (depth-wise) defensive line and linebackers. But while nobody’s eyebrows were raised that Hamilton won its seventh state title in its history, the ease with which things went the Huskies’ way in the first 2 1/2 quarters was surprising to most of us who don’t wear Hamilton jerseys and polo shirts.
Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said the Pride’s plan was to do to Hamilton what the Huskies instead did to the Pride, only wearing down Hamilton’s defense is an obviously difficult task given their depth and numbers.
The Pride did everything wrong in the first half. They couldn’t stop Hamilton’s ground game, consequently couldn’t run the ball or get quarterback Antonio Hinojosa settled in early (two plays from scrimmage and 37 seconds time of possession in the first quarter), turned the ball over three times (which everyone knows can’t happen against Hamilton) and couldn’t get off the field on third downs.
“They controlled the clock and we turned the ball over,” Vaughan said. “You can’t win with turnovers and them eating up clock like that. We can play with them even though we didn’t today.”
Vaughan’s right. If these two teams played each other 10 times, the Pride win at least a couple times.
But it’s one shot come playoff time. This is one of the harsh-but-important life lessons and sometimes a painful reality which comes with playing sports.
–Not that a Vaughan would ever allow his team to do otherwise, but give Mountain Pointe credit for coming back. It was 17-0 at halftime and Mountain Pointe had the ball to start the second half, but Hinojosa threw an interception to Levi Sterling which he returned (with some blocking help) for a touchdown and it was 24-0 less than three minutes into the second half. But Hinojosa and the Thomas Warren/Garette Craig dynamic duo got things rolling for a few minutes.
The Pride had momentum and could have made things pretty interesting late in the third quarter, but on a couple 3rd-and-long in the final couple minutes of the third quarter, A.J. Thigpen hit Izzy Simpson for a first down, then ran 12 yards himself on a QB keeper on 3rd and 11. If Mountain Pointe’s defense could have gotten itself off the field on those two plays, the Pride get the ball back with about two minutes left in the third quarter and a 24-9 Mountain Pointe deficit could have been further cut.
–Easy to say because it worked: What a great play call by the Huskies to run a reverse for Elijah Williams on fourth-and-6 late in the second quarter. The Huskies were in the “tweener” zone between trying a long field goal and going for it, and the Huskies had run through Mountain Pointe between the tackles and on the left side, so they went that way and nobody was home for Mountain Pointe on the other side when Williams ran around the other side. It set up a Tyler Eggers touchdown catch from A.J. Thigpen.
“We were going to win or lose this game up front,” Hamilton defensive coordinator Lane Reynolds said. “We did that.”
–Hamilton studs: Sterling had the INT return for a TD and blocked a Mountain Pointe field goal, and twin brother Santana led the team in tackles. The left half of the offensive line. A secondary which gave Hinojosa nowhere to throw (not that he had a lot of time) and shut down Jalen Brown.
–Mountain Pointe studs: The Payne brothers. Wesley made 13 tackles, 10 solo. Landry laid the hammer down a few times on Hamilton players among his 4 1/2 tackles (1 for loss), a sack and a fumble recovery. Natrell Curtis had six tackles at defensive tackle.
–Do it again? Hamilton’s starting lineup is loaded with juniors, especially on defense. The Sterling brothers, defensive ends Qualen Cunningham and Brady Denton, defensive backs Jalen Jenkins, Josiah Pola and Juwon Jones will all be seniors next year. Defensive tackle Caleb Peart will be a junior. Of offense, wideouts Elijah Williams and Simpson will be seniors next year, along with lineman Casey Tucker and Stevon Adams (RB).
Mountain Pointe brings back Brown, Wesley Payne, Curtis, Trey Lauer, Charlie Trevino and Kyle Spight among a few others.