Hamilton returns to winning ways in Year 3 under Place; Big Blue are 5-1

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Hamilton Big Blue

Attendance is up and there is significant anticipation for yet another Friday night football game in Hamilton this week. With the Big Blue off to a 5-1 start for the first time since 2001,
there is a sense this team is in the process of accomplishing something
special as the regular season nears its critical stretch run. Hamilton, which hasn’t had a playoff appearance since 2001, is currently fifth in Division I Region 4.


Attendance is up and there is significant anticipation for yet another Friday night football game in Hamilton this week.

With the Big Blue off to a 5-1 start for the first time since 2001, there is a sense this team is in the process of accomplishing something special as the regular season nears its critical stretch run.

Hamilton, which hasn’t had a playoff appearance since 2001, is currently fifth in Division I Region 4, according to the Joe Eitel unofficial Harbin rankings.

The Big Blue (5-1, 3-0 Greater Miami Conference) face another strong test Friday night when it plays host to Cincinnati Princeton (3-3, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m.

“Friday nights have been a lot of fun and everyone seems to be excited about the team and the success they are experiencing,” Hamilton athletic director Mike Dellapina said. “Football has a way of doing that to a school and a community.”

That 2001 season also marked the last time Hamilton had a winning season. Hamilton fans have endured some lean years over the past five seasons, including a winless team in 2004.

So, it’s understandable to discover the positive atmosphere in the community.

“The Big Blue has always had a supportive fan base, regardless of the wins and losses,” Dellapina said, “but there is a difference this season and it is rewarding to see the kids and coaches’ efforts paying off and being acknowledged by the community.”

Place, a former Chaminade-Julienne and Middletown coach, arrived at Hamilton in the 2006 season. The Big Blue won seven games over his first two seasons, but already has five wins this year.

“Jim has done a great job up there at Hamilton which is really no surprise,” Princeton coach Bill Leach said. “Look at what he did at his other two stops.”

Place knew his squad would be talented this fall, but unlike last year, he wanted his team to be consistent.

“The players are now committed to finishing,” Place said. “We have had times in all of our games when we could have let things get away from us but it just means so much to our seniors.”

Hamilton, which has won three consecutive games, has done its part defensively. The Big Blue has allowed a league-best 61 points overall and 24 points in the league.

There are several defensive leaders, including senior DE Ed Bryant, who has a league-leading five sacks and also has three forced fumbles. Junior DE Darius Gilbert has 4.5 sacks, while junior DB Orlando Gilbert has a league-leading four interceptions.

Senior LB Denicos Allen, who is one of the state’s top college prospects who lists Cincinnati, Illinois and Wisconsin among his finalists, has 3.5 sacks and three fumble recovered.

There is no doubt the defense has formed a cohesive unit this season.

“We play for each other,” Allen recently told the Hamilton Journal-News. “That’s what makes us so good.”

The offense has also performed well this season. Junior QB Drew Townsend is third in the GMC with 731 passing yards. Sophomore RB Devin Jarrett has also played well, having rushed for 444 yards and three touchdowns. He also has seven receptions for 89 yards.

Sophomore Brian Cleckley had four receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 24-3 win over Liberty Township Lakota East.

The offense will certainly have to play well against Princeton Friday night. The Vikings pose a formidable threat that includes junior QB Spencer Ware and senior WRs Jeff Duckworth (Wisconsin recruit) and Jordan Hopgood.

“Obviously our defense is playing well,” Dellapina said. “They are fast, physical and aggressive. If the offense struggles, they are confident that the defense will have them back on the field soon. Our offense has gotten better each week; they are a young group that continues to gel and improve.”

While it’s taken a couple of years for the Hamilton program to establish itself again, players and coaches are confident in what they are doing.

“We really believe we belong where we are and are upset about the Anderson loss (31-10 Sept. 5),” Place said. “We also know our next three games are all toss ups and we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

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