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Prep football: Hamilton, Princeton seeking positive finish to frustrating year

HAMILTON — Chad Murphy would love a positive ending for a Hamilton High School football season he simply didn’t see coming.

The sixth-year Big Blue coach will take his team and its 1-8 record to Princeton — the Vikings are just 2-7 after forfeiting three wins earlier in the year — on Friday night for a season finale.

“I never would’ve guessed in a million years we’d be sitting here like this,” Murphy said. “I’m still a believer. We’ve got a ton of young guys with experience. I definitely think if these guys stay together and do their thing, there’s no doubt they can be a winning team.”

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HHS took a 47-14 loss at the hands of Lakota East last week, getting outscored 33-7 after halftime.

“I was worried about that in the second half of that game,” Murphy said of possibly losing his players mentally amid the mounting defeats. “After watching the film, we definitely didn’t lay down as much as I thought we did in the second half. That’s one thing I can say. Our kids haven’t laid down.”

Murphy said junior quarterback Khaliyal Sowell and sophomore QB Quincy Simms-Marshall are officially done for the season due to injuries, so sophomore running back Keyshawn Stephens will continue to man the quarterback position.

Stephens ranks second in the Greater Miami Conference in rushing with 1,149 yards and six touchdowns on 209 carries.

“Obviously people are knowing we’re not going to throw it a whole bunch,” Murphy said. “The kid’s one of the top running backs in the GMC as a 10th-grader. He’s just got to take every snap. That’s where we are right now.”

Senior defensive tackle Ryan Ponder has been out for about a month with an injury, but will play Friday, according to Murphy. Junior tight end/linebacker Luke Mattia will also return to the lineup after missing the East game.

“It’s football. You know you’re going to have some injuries. It’s just a matter of who,” Murphy said.

The injury bug has stung Princeton as well, thought Vikings coach Mike Daniels said senior quarterback Hosea Hairston showed signs of returning to full health during last week’s 16-13 loss to Mason.

Daniels said there’s no question his team has gone through an emotional wringer this season.

“We’ve experienced the highest of the high and the lowest of the low,” he said. “You saw us winning on a last-second Hail Mary (against East), and the next thing you know, it’s the next week and you’ve got reporters swarming the area.

“It’s the game of life. You talk to kids about adversity, and they’ve really experienced that piece of it and learning how to deal and cope with it. It’s a life lesson.

“The kids are in good spirits. We’re excited about this game. We want to send the seniors out in the right fashion and allow them to finish strong. It’s also about having pride and positive energy going into the offseason.”

Asked if he had a good gut feeling heading into the game, Daniels laughed.

“I’ve gone into every game with a good feeling,” he said. “The kids have had good practices, and there’s a good energy around the program. Obviously there’s a ton of work to do for us to be able to play championship-level football, but we’re making those strides as a program.”

Friday is Senior Night at Princeton. Daniels said 24 seniors and two managers will be honored.

Friday’s game

What: Hamilton (1-8, 1-6 GMC) at Princeton (2-7, 2-5 GMC), 7 p.m.

Where: Pat Mancuso Field at Viking Stadium, 100 Viking Way, Sharonville

Series: Princeton leads 28-6 and won 31-17 in 2017

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