Hamilton preparing

Hamilton, led by head coach Mike Zdebski, senior defensive end Chandler Davis, senior quarterback Roch Cholowsky and senior wide receiver Tre Spivey, are preparing for a trip to Bishop Gorman in what will be a rematch of last year’s epic come-from-behind win for the Huskies on national TV. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

It was billed as one of the biggest games of the season for high school football across the country. 

Hamilton, a local powerhouse was welcoming in national power Bishop Gorman out of Las Vegas to Jerry Loper Field in the second week of the 2021 season. The game lived up to expectations in the first quarter with Hamilton striking first and Bishop Gorman answering. 

The next three quarters — and most of the fourth — however were a different story as the Gaels built to a 24-7 lead with under two minutes to play. Then, one of the greatest comebacks in the history of high school football took place. 

“It was one of the most surreal moments I had ever been involved with,” Hamilton senior wideout Tre Spivey said. “It was a movie experience. It was insane. Seeing everyone put in all that effort. Nobody gave up, we were still in it.”

Hamilton kicked a field goal to pull itself within two scores of the Gaels. Then, the Huskies recovered an onside kick. Quarterback Nicco Marchiol, who is now at West Virginia, led his team down the field and connected with current Michigan State tight end Michael Masunas for a two-yard touchdown. 

At this point, some of the student section on Hamilton’s side was stopping in the parking lot to witness what was taking place. The Huskies recovered another onside kick. 

Three plays later, Marchiol connected with Nick Switzer for a 22-yard touchdown. Head coach Mike Zdebski had a choice to make: Play for the tie or the win. Marchiol then dove into the end zone to put Hamilton up by a point with eight seconds to play. 

Chaos ensued when the clock hit zero and the Huskies’ miraculous 18-point comeback was complete. Bishop Gorman was the sixth-ranked team in the country when it fell to Hamilton, at the time ranked No. 26. The win elevated the Huskies to No. 18 in the MaxPreps rankings and set the stage for what is expected to be a heated rematch that will take place Friday in Las Vegas. 

“It’s a great environment, great stadium, great tradition,” Hamilton coach Mike Zdebski said of Bishop Gorman. “That’s where we want to be and what we want to continue with our out-of-state games. We want to be in this type of game and put our kids on this platform to receive that national exposure.”

Hamilton’s game against Bishop Gorman will be yet another installment in the program’s desire to become a national power. It will also be yet another test for a senior class that believes they have the ability to make something special happen this season now that they are eligible for the postseason. 

This group went undefeated as freshmen before most were elevated to the varsity roster as sophomores, when the Huskies fell on a missed field goal to Chandler in the Open Division championship game. 

They were a part of the epic comeback against Bishop Gorman a year ago and understand the magnitude of the matchup this season. The Gaels return several starters from last year’s team and added some pieces as well, including former Basha safety Jeremiah Vessel. Zachariah Branch is a five-star athlete that can make plays all over the field. 

Bishop Gorman also has several other highly touted recruits with multiple Power Five offers across the entire program. But that didn’t faze the Huskies in 2021 and it doesn’t now. 

Bishop Gorman is coming off a close loss to Mater Dei, the No. 3 ranked team in the country, two weeks ago and a trip to take on Hawaii power St. Louis this past Friday. Even with those matchups, the Huskies expect to see the best version of this year’s Bishop Gorman team. Which means they have to be at their best, too. 

“We talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk,” Hamilton senior defensive end Chandler Davis said. “It starts with the front seven. We’ve been preparing for this. We know our pass rushing ability, we know our run-stopping ability. At the end of the day, we have to get the job done.”

Hamilton is no stranger to talent this season, either. 

Spivey is one of the top wideouts in the state who recently committed to the University of Arizona. Davis is one of the top defensive linemen in the state and has been a varsity player since his freshman year. 

Rachana Man and Genesis Smith make up a talented secondary, while Taye Brown and Alex McLaughlin lead the linebackers. 

Then there’s Roch Cholowsky, the UCLA baseball commit that waited in the wings for three seasons to lead the Hamilton offense at the quarterback position. Cholowsky might very well hear his name called in next summer’s MLB Draft, but his main focus now is to deliver a championship to Hamilton. 

His quest for that began Friday against Centennial and will continue in Las Vegas against Bishop Gorman as well as the several highly rated teams on the Husky schedule this season. But he’s up for the challenge. 

“It means everything,” Cholowsky said. “I’ve gone through the program and waited my turn. Now that it’s finally my turn I’m super stoked. I’m just excited to go out there Friday and lead my team.”

Hamilton’s game against Bishop Gorman will take place on Friday at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas. The Huskies become the latest team to travel out of state for big-time games early in the season. 

Last week, Basha and Chandler went to California. Perry played in Las Vegas. Casteel will also travel to California this week to face Upland. It’s an opportunity for Arizona to flex its muscle against other states with high level high school football programs.

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