Mountain Pointe, Hamilton meet for state title

Mountain Pointe, Hamilton meet for state title

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Mountain Pointe, Hamilton meet for state title

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For the first time, Phoenix Mountain Pointe will be in the big house, playing for a state football championship, against a school that has become a regular at these events.

To make history, top-seed Mountain Pointe (12-1) will once again have to beat third-seed Chandler Hamilton (11-2), which is making its fifth consecutive championship appearance, seventh in eight years and 10th overall.

Coach Steve Belles is seeking his fifth championship since taking over for John Wrenn in 2006. Hamilton seeks its seventh title since 2003. No other school in Arizona’s biggest division has been this consistently good since 2000.

But Mountain Pointe proved in August it can not only hang with Hamilton but beat the perennial power, turning a late turnover into a last-second field goal for a 17-14 victory, a great way to boost confidence to start the season.

“Our confidence building has nothing to do with us beating them,” said Mountain Pointe senior lineman Kenny Lacy, who has committed to UCLA. “It’s us. There’s just great chemistry. We’re all together in this.”

Mountain Pointe showed it is ready for today’s University of Phoenix Stadium stage for the high noon Division I showdown, after dominating preseason No.1 Phoenix Brophy Prep 30-0 in last week’s semifinal. Mountain Pointe avenged its only loss this season, a 54-28 setback on Sept.28.

Hamilton has come a long way since starting the season 0-2.

The offense, behind senior quarterback A.J. Thigpen, has been good enough to win games. But this team has been powered by defense with nine underclassemen, led by ends Qualen Cunningham and Caleb Peart.

“I think they’re a better unit now than when they started,” Belles said.

Only nine of the 22 starting positions (both offense and defense) at Mountain Pointe are filled by seniors.

Junior quarterback Antonio Hinojosa, who is 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, can run and pass, keeping teams from focusing so much on shutting down a powerful run game, led by the dynamic duo of Garette Craig and Thomas Warren.

“Antonio has been huge,” said Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan, who has reached the state final in Arizona, at Wickenburg in 2006. “He takes a lot of pressure off of our running game. We feel like we have balance.

“Against Brophy, they weren’t able to do much, so we played conservatively, because we didn’t want to give too much away. But we feel like we can do whatever we need to do.”

Hamilton’s secondary will have to watch out for Mountain Pointe’s speedy receivers.

“They were a great defensive team when we played them, and they’re better now,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said.

Belles said there is no concern about a letdown.

“For our kids, they’re not overconfident,” he said. “And they know this a very talented, athletic team that is physical, as well. They bring all three phases.

“I think they just know what’s on the line. We can’t take anything for granted. Of course, we’ve already lost to this team.”

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Mountain Pointe, Hamilton meet for state title
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