Chad Murphy felt like his Hamilton High School football team let a win slip away from it in the season opener last week against West Clermont.
Now the Big Blue will get a shot at another Eastern Cincinnati Conference defending champion.
Looking to bounce back from a 14-3 loss, Hamilton travels Friday to play Anderson, which shared the ECC title with West Clermont and Milford last year en route to a 10-2 finish.
“We feel we let one get away last week,” Murphy said. “We had a lot of chances against West Clermont and didn’t take advantage of opportunities in the red zone, so we’re trying to redeem ourselves against a pretty good Anderson team.”
Anderson lost some key players from its 2017 playoff team, including a record-setting quarterback and some talented receivers that helped the offense produce 492 yards and 43 points per game, but the Redskins still are projected as a favorite to compete for the ECC title once again.
They earned a 34-25 win over Mount Healthy in their opener as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown, and their potent passing game seems to be in good hands with new quarterback David Thompson working behind an experience offensive line that features Notre Dame commit Zeke Correll.
The Redskins run a 3-4 or 50 stack defense like Hamilton and most of its opponents this season.
“They do some things schematically that are unique, that’s kind of their niche,” Murphy said. “They go four or five wide most of the time, so it’s an extreme spread. They’ve been running a little more than last year, but they want to spread you out and get you in space.
“They do what they do pretty well. We are just going to have to win more plays than we did last week. Our defense played well last Friday. We gave up two big plays, but our defense will be prepared. Our biggest challenge is competing against ourselves, because we beat ourselves last week.”
Hamilton, coming off a 3-7 finish last year, took the lead against West Clermont on a field goal. But less than two minutes later, the Big Blue gave up a 70-yard touchdown run.
The offense statistically kept pace with West Clermont but went 3-for-13 on third down and never found the end zone, despite three trips inside the 20-yard line. Junior quarterback Khaliyal Sowell, the starter last year, and Quincy Simms-Marshall combined for 101 yards passing with two interceptions (one each), and Keyshawn Stephens led the ground game with 82 yards on 18 carries.
Elijah Spradling and Luke Mattia led the defense with 10 tackles each.
“We’ve got quite a few returning starters, but we’ve got a lot of youth in some positions here and there,” Murphy said. “Everyone in America is going to make mistakes Week 1. They are definitely fixable mistakes, just executing stuff, penalties and missed assignments. West Clermont was a playoff team in 2017 and is going to have a great year, but against good football teams you have to execute and there is not a lot of room for errors. That’s no different this week against Anderson.”
Hamilton’s first three games come against 2017 playoff teams, with Fairfield on the slate next in the Greater Miami Conference opener.
Anderson coach Evan Dreyer said he looks forward to the matchup with the Big Blue as Murphy has made big strides with the program, despite what the record showed last year. The Redskins have some youth in key spots as well and Hamilton will be a good test for their development, he said.
“They are really talented,” Dreyer said. “Their running game is going to be very hard to stop. All of their running backs can go the distance. Their defense does a great job of tackling and stopping the run. Coach Murphy has vastly improved the Hamilton program.
“Our experienced players did a tremendous job of performing (last week). Our young guys didn’t perform at their maximum potential. We are excited to get another opportunity.”
What: Hamilton (0-1) at Anderson (1-0), 7 p.m.
Where: Brown Stadium, 7560 Forest Road, Cincinnati
Series: Anderson leads 3-0 and won the last meeting 31-10 in 2008