In a traditional rivalry, something new made all the difference.
Hammond’s midseason change to a 3-4 defense from its usual 4-3 wreaked havoc on Heathwood Hall in a 17-0 shutout of the Highlanders.
“Anytime there’s a goose egg on the scoreboard, as an offensive coach and a head coach, it’s just an unbelievable asset to have the defense that we did,” Hammond coach Erik Kimrey said. “We changed our mentality and approach completely. We’ve been a 4-3 team here for almost 10 years.”
The win against Heathwood Hall marked the third straight game Hammond’s first-string defense has not allowed a score, Kimrey said.
With heavy rain falling for most of the first half, Heathwood Hall lost starting quarterback Logan McGill to an injury. Backup quarterback Will Detwiler also went down in the second half. Wide receiver Andrew Earle played quarterback for the majority of the fourth quarter, despite never playing a snap at quarterback.
“This is a resilient group that has no quit,” Heathwood Hall coach Jon Wheeler said.
The Skyhawks also were depleted at quarterback, playing without Nick Garrett as he nursed a shoulder injury. Kimrey expects him to be able to play when the playoffs begin next week. Hammond clinched its place in the postseason before the game.
Playing every snap at quarterback for the first time since the start of the season, Davis King was 11-of-19 for 159 yards and one touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown.
With King not being a mobile quarterback, a lot of attention was paid to running back T.J. Brady. Kimrey praised King for taking pressure off the rushing attack by being effective as a passer.
“Coach Kimrey gave me a goal of no turnovers because with 70 percent chance of rain forecasted all week, we knew we were going to run the ball a lot, but we had to throw some, too” King said.
As the Skyhawks’ defense posted one stop after another, the offense was able to build up a comfortable lead in the first half. After Hammond’s first touchdown drive took seven minutes off the clock, the Skyhawks capitalized again in the second quarter after forcing a fumble and recovering in Heathwood Hall territory.
Channeling his grandfather, USC coach Steve Spurrier, King threw deep on the first play after the turnover, connecting with Max Woodburn on a 42-yard touchdown pass to give Hammond a two-touchdown lead. The Skyhawks added a field goal before halftime to make it 17-0.
The deficit proved too much for the Highlanders to overcome against Hammond’s stout defense, taking two drives in the second half to Hammond’s 30 without getting a score. With Ben Lippen’s 21-3 loss to Cardinal Newman, Heathwood Hall earns the last spot in the playoffs.
“We’re going to have a plan to win it,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to have a plan to play our butts off and not worry about the scoreboard, but play and fight.”
H—King 3 run (Bill Horst kick) 5:05
H—Woodburn 42 pass from King (Horst kick) 4:09
H—Hurst 25-yard field goal :02
Rushing: HH— Brandon Hill 11-47, Andrew Earle 5-12, McGill 1-(-6). H— Brady 24-157, Black 5-41, King 4-(-11).
Passing: HH – Detwiler 5-15-0-65, McGill 1-2-0-8, Earle 2-4-0-22. H – King 11-19-0-159.
Receiving: HH – Earle 3-47, Nelson Weston 4-37, Matt Welch 1-12. H – Woodburn 4-70, Brady 3-48, Black 2-26, Cantey Heath 2-15.