After the first quarter of the SCISA Class 3A title game between Hammond and Wilson Hall, it seemed the old adage would hold true. Defense would win the championship.
It was Wilson Hall’s defense that came up big, as the Barons (13-0) powered to a 34-27 victory at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium on Saturday.
But it was Wilson Hall quarterback William Kinney’s 22-yard scoring run with 1:54 remaining that sealed the win for the Barons.
“Defense wins championships, I’ve heard that a lot, but it sure was fun,” Kinney said of scoring the game-winner.
The Barons’ defense held Hammond on its last possession to secure their first title since 2003.
“We’re not going to hang our heads at all,” Hammond coach Erik Kimrey said. It was the Skyhawks’ second consecutive runner-up finish, in their eighth consecutive title game appearance.
“I’m proud of this team. We were down by three scores, and our guys didn’t panic at all. These guys have overcome a lot of adversity and inexperience, and I couldn’t be prouder to be their coach.”
“We just made too many mistakes to win the game,” he said.
Barons coach Bruce Lane tipped his hat to the Skyhawks.
“This is probably Erik Kimrey and his staff’s best job coaching based on what they lost and how their season started and to come back and be here,” he said.
“That last drive, we just made plays, and that’s what champions do,” Lane said.
The squads had traded touchdowns and traversed the field unfettered in the opening session.
But in the second quarter, the Barons’ defense showed up, with Robert James intercepting Hammond quarterback Davis King’s first pass of the night. On the first play of the subsequent possession, Kinney rumbled 43 yards into the end zone to make it a two-possession game.
After the Baron offense coughed up a fumble on third-and-11 at their 7-yard line, Hammond fumbled possession back to Wilson Hall. Barons linebacker Will Watson emerged from the scrum with the ball and rolled untouched 89 yards for another score and a 26-7 lead.
Hammond answered with a gutsy drive — powered by Nick Garrett under center — that ended with 15-yard scoring catch by Doak Fisher. The Skyhawks went into halftime trailing by 12.
“Our guys have been poised all year. We felt like at halftime we had a chance to win the game,” Kimrey said.
And the Skyhawks did.
After the break, Hammond’s offense dominated, converting five fourth downs on two long scoring drives that put the Skyhawks ahead 27-26 with 6:50 remaining.
T.J. Brady rushed for 102 yards and two scores.
Then, Hammond recovered a fumble at the Barons’ 22 and the Skyhawks again looked to Brady. The junior got Hammond to the 10, but a critical penalty and an interception on fourth-and-long kept the Skyhawks from extending their lead.
Set back at their 40 on second-and-30, Wilson Hall opted for a hook-and-ladder — Kinney to John Ballard to Jay Goodson — for a 10-yard gain. But the Skyhawks were penalized for a horsecollar tackle that halved the field and set up a 22-yard touchdown run from Kinney, who bulled through a defender at the goal line for the score. Ballard’s two-point run set the final score.
Wilson Hall’s first drive went 75 yards to score in less than four minutes.
On the ensuing drive, Brady took the Skyhawks 25 yards across midfield, and a personal foul against the Barons put Hammond inside the Barons’ 20 after four plays.
Garrett gained 11 yards on a keeper and Brady polished off the drive on the next play. With Bill Horst’s extra-point kick, the Skyhawks went ahead 7-6 with 3:40 left in the period.
Wilson Hall recovered the Skyhawks’ onsides-kick attempt to begin the next Barons drive near midfield.
Kinney punished the Skyhawks defense up the middle for 29 yards, then hit Cody Hoover at the goal line from six yards out to regain the lead for Wilson Hall, 12-7, at the end of the period.
Brady led the game with 33 carries for 184 yards. Kinney posted 125 yards rushing to lead the Barons.
W—John Ballard 2 run (kick failed)
H—TJ Brady 2 run (Bill Horst kick)
W—Cody Hoover 6 pass from William Kinney (run failed)
W—Kinney 43 run (Hoover kick)
W—Will Watson 89 fumble return (Hoover kick)
H—Doak Fisher 15 pass from Nick Garrett (Horst kick)
H—TJ Brady 9 run (Horst kick)
H—Brady 6 run (pass failed)
W—Kinney 22 run (Ballard run)