High school football, Week 3: Hamilton looks to continue strong 2-0 start in league opener

Hamilton quarterback Quincy Simms Marshall throws the football during their game against Anderson Friday, Sept. 6 at Virgil M. Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. Big Blue won 28-14. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton quarterback Quincy Simms Marshall throws the football during their game against Anderson Friday, Sept. 6 at Virgil M. Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. Big Blue won 28-14. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

At this stage of the 2018 high school football season, Hamilton was 0-2 and had been outscored by a combined 50-34 in losses to West Clermont and Anderson.

Almost exactly one year later, in the first season under coach and former Big Blue star Nate Mahon, Hamilton is 2-0 and has outscored West Clermont and Anderson by a combined 49-21.

Two wins is one more than Hamilton was able to crank out all of last season, when a one-point victory over arch-rival Middletown was the only thing that stood between the Big Blue and a winless season.

ExploreREAD MORE: PHOTOS: Hamilton football beats Anderson, 28-14

The Big Blue can be 3-0 for the first time since 2016 with a win in the Greater Miami Conference opener against Lakota West on Friday at Virgil Schwarm Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Junior quarterback Quincy Simms-Marshall points to two reasons for the turnaround.

“I think our line has improved a lot and our attitude at practice has improved,” the 6-foot-1 junior said on Wednesday.

Credit that attitude adjustment to the arrival of Mahon, a 2003 Hamilton graduate and former Big Blue linebacker who was an Greater Miami Conference all-star in football and baseball during a career that led to him being inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in January 2018.

“I think, from a coach’s perspective, one of the things I’ve been most impressed with is the buy-in by the players,” said Mahon, who returned to Hamilton after three seasons as Little Miami’s coach. “Our coaches worked really, really hard in our off-season and summer programs. They earned the trust of the players. We’ve put together a really good staff.”

The staff includes Hamilton mainstay Mike Dole and former local head coaches such as Bill Leach and JD Vonderheide.

“We’ve got a lot of good staff members who’ve done a good job building relationships,” Mahon said.

Going into Week Three of the 2019 season, Hamilton is the only GMC team ranked among the top three is both offense and defense. Led by the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Marshall and a pair of 6-1, 190-pound running backs, sophomore Kaleb Johnson and junior Keyshawn Stephens, the Big Blue is averaging 211 rushing yards per game and 134 passing yards per game, both third in the conference. Hamilton, which finished last season ranked last in the GMC in passing, also is tied for fourth in scoring with an average of 24.5 points per game.

Johnson ranks third in the GMC with 193 rushing yards. Stephens is right behind in fourth place with 186 yards and leads the conference with four touchdowns, all scored in last Friday’s 28-14 home win over the Eastern Cincinnati Conference Redskins.

Marshall ranks third with 268 passing yards and second with a 176.4 passer rating. Where has he come the farthest from last season to this season?

“Probably my patience in the passing game, and my run-pass reads also have improved,” he said.

“He’s doing a great job running the show and doing what we ask him to do,” Mahon said. “He’s a smart kid.”

Mahon has been equally impressed with the development of 6-foot, 160-pound senior Khaliyal Sowell in his move to full-time defensive back.

“He’s been a quarterback the past couple of years, but he’s embraced his role as a lockdown corner,” Mahon said. “He’s also a return guy and does a little bit of stuff on offense.”

Sowell and 6-1, 195-pound linebacker Jayden Marshall are key parts of a defense that is ranked second in the GMC in average yards allowed per game at 161.0 and third in both average rushing yards per game with 65 and average passing yards allowed per game with 76.0. Marshall already has 2-1/2 sacks and 15 tackles, both team highs. Linebacker Luke Mattia, a 6-4, 230-pound senior who joined Stephens as first-team all-conference picks last season, is second with 13 tackles, one more than 6-foot, 220-pound junior linebacker Jordan Jones.

Last season, Hamilton ranked last in the conference in average yards and points allowed per game and eighth in average rushing and passing yards allowed per game.

“That’s a great point,” Mahon said. “No. 1, we’ve made it an emphasis to play better defense. We emphasize it all week and we emphasize if pre-game.

“The other thing we’ve been happy with is, knock on wood, we’re not turning the ball over. If you don’t turn the ball over and you play sound defense, you have a great chance to win the game.”

The Big Blue have two turnovers in its first two games. Opponents have combined to turn it over four times

Perhaps Mahon’s biggest contribution has been putting the “Hamilton” back in Hamilton football.

“It’s good having him around,” Marshall said. “He brings his own perspective of playing football at Hamilton. He always tells us to be hungry and never give up and keep fighting. He tells us to play all four quarters and go all out.”


All games 7 p.m., Friday

Lakota West at Hamilton

Fairfield at Middletown

Edgewood vs. Badin at Fairfield

Xenia at Franklin

Oakwood at Carlisle

Beaverecreek at Springboro

Fenwick at Clinton-Massie

New Miami at Fayetteville-Perry

Lakota East at Mason

Ross at Western Brown

Valley View at Madison

New Richmond at Monroe

Talawanda at Eaton

West Clermont at Lebanon

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