It’s no secret the Chandler Hamilton offense has little problem putting points on the board.
But during Friday night’s Division I first-round playoff contest at home against Goodyear Millennium, it was the defense that had folks talking.
Hamilton, the No. 3 seed, recorded three safeties and sacked Goodyear Millennium senior quarterback Walter Freeman seven times en route to a 35-9 victory.
No stranger to success and in particular the postseason, coach Steve Belles and his troops will move on to host sixth-seeded Phoenix Pinnacle next Friday in quarterfinal action.
“That was definitely a weird first half with three safeties,” said Belles, who in his eight years at the helm has compiled a 101-8 record that includes five state titles including last season. “Our defense played outstanding. The first team didn’t allow any points. We stopped ourselves a couple of times but overall, I think we’re hitting our stride at the right time.”
Hamilton (9-2) recorded the first safety when an punt attempt was blocked by senior cornerback Levi Sterling and the ball squirted out of the back of the end zone with 1:06 left in the first quarter.
Millennium returned the favor when it racked up a safety of its own 1:13 into the second quarter. A Hamliton punt went sailing over the punter’s head, who then kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone making it 2-2.
Hamilton’s special teams got into the act two minutes after the Millennium safety, junior Morris Kroma raced down the sidelines for a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown and Hamilton vaulted ahead 10-2.
Hamilton added two more safeties in the second quarter, the second coming on a sack by senior linebacker Hunter Jensen. In between the safeties, Hamilton senior tailback Tyrell Smith dashed in from a yard out.
Hamilton added another touchdown with 5:52 left in the half when senior quarterback Sam Sasso hooked up with senior wideout Elijah Williams on a 57-yard scoring strike and all of a sudden the hosts had a 28-2 advantage at halftime.
Hamilton’s defense allowed no first downs and Millennium (6-5) was held to minus-13 yards of offense through the first 24 minutes.
Senior running back Jerrion Acles scored an insurance touchdown when he dashed in from two yards for the final Hamilton score of the night.
Millennium scored its lone touchdown when Walter Freeman raced around the right side from 13 yards and the game’s final points.
For Chandler Hamilton, Sasso, finished with 157 yards on 9-of-20 passing with his favorite target being Williams, who hauled in four passes for 87 yards and the touchdown. Smith led the rushing attack with 75 yards on 17 carries, while Acles complemented him with 60 yards on 11 carries and the one score.
“Special teams and big plays definitely hurt us in the beginning really hurt us,” Millennium coach Jason Randels said. “They (Hamilton) is a great program and we’re still working on getting to that point.”