October 21, 2009

Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) High School has had some Grand Canyon-sized victory margins this season, including an opening game 73-15 victory and a 70-0 cakewalk two weeks later. It has outscored its opponents 359-57 on the way to a 7-0 ranking and the No. 44 spot in the RivalsHigh 100 rankings.

So will it be ready for its matchup Friday at No. 74 Brophy (Phoenix) in the RivalsHigh Game of the Week? The team thinks it will be - thanks to its only scare of the season.

Hamilton, trailing crosstown rival Chandler by ten points with four minutes to play, rallied for a 24-20 victory.

"We hadn't been in a close game all year, and sometimes you worry about that, but our kids really responded well," head coach Steve Belles said.

Belles knows his team will need to be ready for 6-1 Brophy, a team it edged 17-10 in last year's Arizona 5A-1 state title game, its fourth state title since 2003.

Hamilton's offense is led by versatile two-star senior running back Zach Bauman (5-9, 200 pounds), who was second team all 5A his junior year. The defense is led by 6-0, 184-pound safety Devon Carrington, a three-star recruit and a Stanford commit ranked by Rivals.com as the state's fourth best player.

Brophy has had plenty of recent success as well. The Broncos won the state Class 5A Division I title in 2005 and 2007 and returned nine starters, six on offense and three on defense, from last year's state runner-up team. Its only loss was to No. 13 Centennial, 24-12.

The offense is led by Max Leonesio, a 5-11, 180-pound north-south running back who rushed for 2,081 yards and 25 touchdowns last season and is planning to get an Ivy League education when he graduates high school. Brophy's sophomore quarterback, Chase Knox, prepares diligently and spreads the ball around to his receivers.

The Broncos' biggest star is actually its kicker, Alex Garoutte, a two-star recruit. Two weeks ago, he booted two 47-yarders and a 52-yarder against Red Mountain. He also kicked a 52-yard field goal against Centennial.

According to Brophy head coach Scooter Molander, having such an accurate field goal kicker is a huge boost to the team. The Broncos score three points when most teams have to punt and always make their extra point. Meanwhile, the defense knows that if it can force a turnover on the other team's side of the field, it'll almost certainly be rewarded with at least a field goal. Finally, Garoutte usually kicks the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs and is a good punter.

"He's the best kicker I've ever personally seen at the high school level," Molander said. "He's unbelievable."

Aside from Garoutte and Leonesio, the Broncos don't have a lot of seniors who will be sought after by college recruiters. That's OK, according to Molander.

"This particular year, we don't have those 'star next to them' players," he said. "But we've won with teamwork, and you can always be proud of that as a coach."

For Brophy, it's the second time to be playing in the Game of the Week, the first being the loss to Centennial. Molander said he's glad to be playing the nation's best teams.

"The only way we get better as an overall program is to play great programs," he said. "If things work out, then you've elevated yourself, but that's really for rankings. The bottom line is, you're battle-tested and ready for the playoffs."

Both teams come in ready to play, and Belles expects a tough game. He knows Brophy will not be intimidated.

"They're one of just a few schools, I think, when we walk out there, they don't feel like we're going to just beat them," he said. "They feel like they're going to win the game, which is great for us because it takes us to another level."

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 74 Brophy (AZ) vs No. 44 Hamilton (AZ)
KEY TO THE GAME: Brophy Broncos
Brophy The Broncos will need a big game from their running back, Max Leonesio, and a mistake-free game from their quarterback, Chase Knox, in order to keep Hamilton's high-powered offense off the field.
KEY TO THE GAME: Hamilton Huskies
Hamilton Hamilton can't turn the ball over on its side of the field, or it's a nearly automatic three points from Brophy's kicker, Alex Garoutte. The Huskies have played only one close game this year and will need to adjust to a team that's not intimidated by them.
Note: Rest up
Hamilton is coming off a bye week and has had two weeks to prepare and to get healthy, while Brophy played a tough game against Mesa last week. That extra week of preparation and planning could be the difference in a close game.
RivalsHigh Game of the Week Prediction. 2009 record (6-3)
The two Arizona powers know each other well and there is certainly no love lost between them. Hamilton has the more experienced team and they had an extra week to prepare for the contest. This game should be close, but the Huskies have the edge. Hamilton 20, Brophy 12

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