Special to AllSportsTucson from Brittany Bowyer
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07
In one of the most highly anticipated match-ups in Arizona, the Hamilton Huskies downed the Saguaro Sabercats 13-7 in front of the bright lights of the ESPN 2 cameras. It was a bit of an uncharacteristic game for both teams, as they had a combined total of nearly two dozen flags on the night.
“I think there were a lot of nerves early on,” Hamilton Head Coach Mike Zdebski said.
Zdebski believes the nerves were the reason for the flags throughout the night, as the kids knew the stage that they were playing on tonight.
“I think they focus so hard on trying to not make mistakes and what you don’t want to do,” Zdebski. “We just have to work on living in the moment and getting better in these types of situations, because we’re gonna be in more of them.”
Both teams got off to a rough start. Hamilton quarterback, junior Nicco Marchiol, was intercepted in the red zone by junior safety Tommy DeChesaro. However, Saguaro wasn’t able to capitalize on the turnover, eventually punting it away.
The struggle to find an offensive rhythm haunted the Sabercats all night. In the first half of the game, the Sabercats had just over 70 rushing yards, and junior quarterback Ridge Docekal completed only two of four pass attempts for three total yards.
Saguaro’s only score came on a special team play. Junior Javen Jacobs had a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter. Those would be the only points the Sabercats would put on the board, something incredibly rare for them.
“We just have so many threats everywhere, there’s really no openings in our defense,” Marchiol said.
Meanwhile for the Huskies, Marchiol got off to a rough start, too. He completed only one of seven passes for 23 yards with one interception. Luckily, though, their defense and special teams set the offense up in excellent field position, and the Huskies capitalized on it. Marchiol punched it in from six yards out, and an extra kick from Jacob Medina tied the game halfway through the second quarter.
Another field goal from Medina just before the half gave the Huskies a slight edge they were able to hold on to.
The second half of the game, on paper, seems like it was less than exciting, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Both team’s defenses stepped it up big time, with Saguaro only allowing one more field goal for the remainder of the game and Hamilton locking things down completely.
“I’m so thankful for our defense, as you guys can see, we couldn’t get the job done on offense, but they had our backs covered from the first quarter through the fourth quarters,” Marchiol said.
The Sabercats were almost able to pull off a comeback, marching down the field on their final drive of the game. Unfortunately, they were unable to convert on a 4th down, turning it over to Hamilton, who kneeled it down to close out the game.
Marchiol says the game played out exactly how he anticipated: a hard-fought battle that goes to the end.
“I knew going into this it was going to be a really good offense and a really good defense against another really good offense and another really good defense. But props to them, you know, they had some big time players that just straight up cut out with everything we did, but at the end of the day I’m happy to come out with a win,” Marchiol said.
For Hamilton, it was a satisfying win after losing to Saguaro in last year’s Open Division Semifinals. Although Marchiol wasn’t a part of that team, being he transferred in when his family moved here from out of state earlier this year, he still understood the magnitude of the game and what it meant to his teammates.
“It’s indescribable right now,” Marchiol said. “They say this is just as big as Chandler. There’s a long history on the field with these guys and you definitely can feel it out on the field,” Marchiol said.
Coach Zdebski also touched on the magnitude of the win.
“Saguaro’s kind of a measuring stick,” He said. “That’s one hurdle, but I’m sure we’ll probably see them again.”