There’s no question A.J. Thigpen does plenty and then some for the Chandler Hamilton football team.
But when he’s not passing or running for huge chunks of yardage, he’s actually doing a little punting.
Yes, punting. Chandler Hamilton punting is sometimes a rarity in itself.
But with the game under control and with second and third team players playing much of the second half, Thigpen got the call. He promptly booted a 44-yarder on a rare Hamilton fourth down midway through the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t really ready and wish I could have kicked it farther,” Thigpen said after his team put the finishing touches on a 52-7 victory over host Tempe Corona del Sol in a Division I regular-season finale Friday night.
And when Thigpen wasn’t showcasing his foot, rest assured his arm was doing the usual talking.
“It was a little bit of a slow start for us,” the senior signal-caller said after no completions on three pass attempts in the first period. “We wanted to start fast but we had some mental mistakes that we need to take care of.”
After senior tailback Frankie Felix’s 10-yard dash in the opening stanza, Thigpen then took over, completing 10-of-12-passes for 175 yards and two second quarter scoring strikes as Chandler Hamilton (8-2) started taking control of the contest.
After he scored on a 4-yard run to open the second, Thigpen tossed an 82-yard bomb to Felix for a 22-0 advantage.
With slim playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Tempe Corona del Sol played a spirited game, and it showed when senior quarterback Evan Kinney raced in from 50 yards out for what turned out to be Corona del Sol’s lone touchdown. But Thigpen answered right back with a 9-yard fade pass to junior wideout Israel Simpson and a 29-7 Hamilton halftime lead.
“A.J. didn’t force anything, and he did a great job of staying in the pocket, which is what we worked on a lot this week,” coach Steve Belles said. “We were a little lethargic at times but we stayed the course. I was really proud of our second and third team players and the way they moved the ball down the field. It was a good team win.”
Thigpen ended up finishing 11-for-16 for 191 yards before being pulled from his quarterback duties early in the third. When he wasn’t throwing, Thigpen was running wild in the first half with 120 yards on six carries.
Felix complemented him with 73 yards on six carries and two touchdowns, his second on a 6-yard scamper in the first minute of the third quarter. Felix set up the run on the previous play with a 47-yard spurt.
Thigpen’s only pass attempt was a 16-yard scoring strike to junior running back Tyrell Smith shortly after Felix second score.
A 24-yard field goal by senior kicker Daniel Wichman and a 49-yard run by senior running back Sutton Glover capped the Chandler Hamilton scoring for the evening.
Chandler Hamilton’s defense had six sacks, two of them by freshman defensive tackle Garrett Rand. Junior linebacker Santana Sterling and junior defensive back Flood Taylor recovered fumbles, while junior cornerback A.J. Greathouse picked off a Kinney pass in the third quarter.
Tempe Corona del Sol’s defense had a few sparks as well with senior defensive back Quinn Robertson and junior defensive back Isaac Niemtschk recovering fumbles and senior defensive back Maceo Brown put a punishing lick on one of the Chandler ball carriers in the first half.
“We would get in a position to be successful but then shoot ourselves in the foot,” said coach Tom Joseph, whose team finished the season 4-6.
Senior tailback James Conti went out in style, rushing for 100 yards on 20 carries to lead Tempe Corona del Sol’s offense.