Polynesian Student-Athlete Advocate, George Pahulu, Finds Plenty Of Bay Area Ties While At Arizona High School Football Showdown Between Chandler, Hamilton •
George Pahulu first approached SportStars about covering Tongan and Samoan athletes for the magazine back in 2017. He’s covered several games for us since then under the series name, “Pahulu’s Point Of View.” As we wait and hope for California football, Pahulu went south to take in the Nov. 20 battle of Arizona powers, Chandler and Hamilton-Chandler.
Here’s his report, which includes several ties back to the Bay Area.
MATCHUP: Hamilton-Chandler (AZ) @ Chandler (AZ)
GAME INFO: This game was a national Top 25 showdown televised on ESPNU. The rivalry game is known as the “Battle of Arizona Ave” as the Hamilton and Chandler campuses are separated by just seven miles.
PLAYERS I CAME TO SEE:
I am here to watch one Tongan football student-athlete from Chandler, Sione Hingano (OL, senior). His dad Toni Hingano played junior college in the Bay Area at Foothill College (Los Altos Hills) before transferring to University of Utah. Sione recently orally committed to BYU, his dream school. His hard work paid off over the summer and led to his first year of starting at offensive tackle.
I also wanted to see Samoan standout Zion Magalei (pictured at top). The Chandler senior defensive end also has Bay Area roots. His pops grew up in San Francisco as a member of the First Samoan Congressional Church on 260 Sagamore St. Zion recently committed to the University of Colorado.
• The upset-minded Hamilton Huskies took a 14-10 lead on a 2-yard QB sneak by Nicco Marchiol with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter.
• Chandler answered when QB Mikey Keene hit Jalen Richmond for a 17-yard TD pass that gave the Wolves a 17-14 halftime lead.
• Chandler quickly expanded its lead on the opening possession of the second half. Keene connected with Keiyon Graves on a 23-yard scoring pass for a 24-14 lead.
• Hamilton’s hopes to rally took a serious hit when Marchiol, a highly rated 2022 recruit, suffered an injury with five minutes left in the third quarter and never returned.
• Keene and Graves hooked up again on a 42-yard TD that extended the Wolves lead to 34-14 and completed the scoring for the game.
• Hamilton junior defensive end Russell “Deuce” Martin — who had three sacks in a previous game against Saguaro-Scottsdale (AZ.) Oregon commit Bram Walden — was shut out by Hingano.
• Chandler DE Brandon Buckner, an Oregon commit, had four tackles. Bucker is the son of Brentson Buckner, who has ties to both the 49ers and Raiders. Brentson Buckner played three seasons for the 49ers and was part of Jon Gruden’s Raiders coaching staff through last season. He is now an assistant coach with the Arizona Cardinals.
• Keene finished the night completing 15 of 23 passes for 236 yards and three TDs. He’s a University of Central Florida commit.
• Chandler tailback Eli Sanders rushed 23 times for 154 yards and a touchdown.
• Hamilton senior running back Rodney Clemente was held to just 43 yards on nine carries. Clemente grew up in San Francisco’s Hunters Point neighborhood before moving to Arizona and spending his first three years at Chandler.
FUN FACTS: Chandler is the defending Arizona Open Division state champ after beating Saguaro-Scottsdale in last year’s final. Hamilton’s last state title came in 2012. Notable Chandler alumni include the Jordan Brothers. Cameron Jordan starred at Cal and currently plays for the New Orleans Saints. Dion Jordan attended Oregon and suits up for the 49ers now. Baltimore Ravens All-Pro defensive end Terrell Suggs played at both Chandler HS and Hamilton HS.
FINAL THOUGHTS: These two teams could very well meet again for the Arizona Open Division State Championship. Chandler is the top seed in the eight-team field; Hamilton is the No. 2 seed. There are so many blue chip athletes at Chandler. The Wolves brought in a Tongan assistant coach, Sam Mafua, that has helped build a pipeline of Tongan student-athletes from the Mesa Area. I appreciated the hospitality that Chandler coach Rick Garretson and his staff extended during my visit.
Till next time, Ofa Atu.