Hamilton beats Chandler with walk-off field goal - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Hamilton beats Chandler with walk-off field goal

November 20th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Hamilton beats Chandler with walk-off field goal
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

Matthew Krneta had confidence his offense would give him a chance with 50 seconds remaining and Hamilton trailing by a point to rival Chandler.

He just had to settle himself and make sure he was prepared for a potential game-winning kick.

When Hamilton quarterback Beckham Pellant found wideout Dylan Lord for a 43-yard pass that set the Huskies up at the 10, Krneta knew his time was coming. A play later with just 2 seconds left, he connected on a 28-yard field goal that gave the Huskies the 19-17 win over the Wolves in yet another classic in the Battle for Arizona Avenue.

“I’m ecstatic, man,” Krneta said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. My first field goal … I should’ve made it, it was just a bad mishit. I’m just glad I had a shot to redeem myself.

“Offense stepping up there at the end, defense stepping up, perfect snap, perfect hold. I couldn’t ask for a better operation.”

Krneta’s performance earned him an MVP trophy at the end of the game, which was part of the Great American Rival Series.

Early on he missed a field goal wide to the right. But he connected on his next four kicks from 27, 35, 21 and the 28-yard game-winner. He didn’t harp on the missed kick that would’ve tied the game early on.

He kept faith in his team to rally behind him and himself. That led to him making perhaps one of the biggest field goals of his career so far.

“I didn’t even hear them call field goal,” Krneta said. “I was just walking down the sidelines and I was like, ‘Man, let’s just not fumble.’ We can’t lose the ball here.

“Thanks to this guy (Pellant) we went down there. I just went out there knowing we were going to make it.”

Both offenses struggled throughout most of the game.

The two teams traded punts as both defenses dug in and didn’t allow much in the way of production. For Hamilton, it was linebackers Alex McLaughlin and Aaron Loughren getting pressure on Raiola. Chandler was much of the same as the defensive line made their way to Pellant and linebacker Roman Kupu stuffed running lanes.

Hamilton’s first score of the game came on a 2-yard run by Pellant late in the first half. A personal foul for a late hit by Chandler helped set the Huskies up inside the red zone to eventually get into scoring position.

It was one of several penalties by the Wolves, who had eight total for 80 yards. Four were personal foul or unsportsmanlike penalties. The others were pre-snap miscues.

Krneta connected on a field goal on the third to give Hamilton a seven-point advantage. Then near the midway point of the fourth Chandler went to a double pass to find the end zone.

Raiola lateraled to wideout Tyreeq-styles Obichere who found Justice Spann wide open 29 yards down the field. Two more field goals gave Hamilton the six-point advantage. Then, defensive miscues by the Huskies.

“Pass interference and the defensive back fell down,” Zdebski said. “Misfortunate incident and it happens.”

The pass interference and defender falling helped set Chandler up at the 9-yard line with less than a minute to play. Raiola then connected with tight end Kaden Anderson for the go-ahead score.

With 50 seconds left Pellant began working the Hamilton offense down the field. It was perhaps the biggest drive of the season for the junior who took over the offense after starter Roch Cholowsky went down with a knee injury.

But he remained poised and eventually found wideout Dylan Lord wide open 43 yards down the field. From there, Pellant knew Krneta would win them the game.

“We’re down one and we have such a good kicker, if we get to the 35, something like that, he’s going to make it,” said Pellant, who finished 10-of-18 for 149 yards through the air and 57 on the ground.

“We got out of bounds and moved the ball down the field. The whole team had my back, and we went from there.”

The win for Hamilton is the second since Mike Zdebski took over the program. He said he still remembers the beat down his team took against the Wolves in their first meeting in 2019. But after that, they’ve been competitive.

It was the 30th meeting all-time between the two rivals – including the postseason – that are separated by just four miles. And while many of those have been lopsided regular season or playoff matchups, Thursday night’s battle was yet another instant classic in the series.

Hamilton entered the game against No. 3 Chandler as the No. 5 seed. Despite the win, the Huskies didn’t pass the Wolves in the final Open Division rankings of the season. They did, however, move up to No. 4, securing a home playoff game in two weeks when the tournament begins.

That was the goal for Zdebski and his team. And they accomplished it in dramatic fashion.

“Beside that this is the most important game on our schedule, we knew this was for a home game,” Zdebski said. “We can’t get too overconfident or anything because everyone is good. We went 5-0 at home and 3-2 on the road.

“We’re going to have to play in a couple weeks.”