What a difference 12 weeks can make. Just ask the Hammond Skyhawks.
Erik Kimrey’s team opened the season with a win against Ben Lippen on Aug. 29, but surrendered 35 points and 569 yards to the Falcons.
On Friday at Edens Stadium, it was a different story. Hammond did everything right on the way to a 28-14 win in the rematch to advance to SCISA Class 3A championship game for the ninth consecutive season.
The Skyhawks (12-0) will face Laurence Manning Academy next Saturday at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium with the goal of securing their seventh SCISA title since 2006.
“That was as good a defensive performance as I’ve seen since I’ve been at Hammond,” Kimrey said. “Kyle Farnsworth put together a great game plan, and our offensive line, which is the smallest we’ve ever had, allowed us to run the ball and control the clock. It was just a great team win.”
The star was senior back T.J. Brady, who ran for 262 yards on 27 carries and scored four touchdowns and one two-point conversion.
“Each game, we’ve come together more and more as a team,” said Brady, who has tallied 36 touchdowns this season and 59 in his two-year varsity career.
“The offense really fed off the energy of the defense tonight. We did our jobs tonight, and that’s why we had the outcome we wanted.”
The defense, which underwent a major personnel overhaul after the first week, took away Ben Lippen’s big-play game. The longest Falcons gain of the night was an 18-yard run by Aaron McGuire.
The Skyhawks forced BL quarterback Robert Barrow into a short passing scheme that produced completions and first downs, but no quick-strike scoring. Barrow, who came into the game with 2,832 yards passing, managed 168 yards on his 21 completions.
McGuire was the prime mover with 147 yards rushing and 25 receiving.
“Ben Lippen really exposed our weakness in that first game, and we had to make changes,” defensive coordinator Farnsworth said.
“We had five different players on the field tonight. We not only had some new players, we moved some others around to different positions. It was a whole new look compared to that first game. We played well across the board, but the secondary really stood out. Taking away the big play was what we stressed all week.”
The defense also came up with a fumble recovery and an interception. Hammond’s offense was turnover free.
“Hammond had a great defensive game plan tonight, and we didn’t adjust real well,” said first-year Falcons coach Derek White, whose team finished 9-4.
The tone was set in the first half. Hammond built a 13-0 lead with Brady running for 140 yards and scoring two second-quarter touchdowns. Ben Lippen had one play in the red zone in the opening 24 minutes.
The Falcons ran 23 plays in the third quarter to five for Hammond, but it was a 7-7 draw in points. Brady capped a three-play, 48-yard scoring drive with a 27-yard scoring jaunt and a two-point run for a 21-0 lead. Ben Lippen responded with a 90-yard scoring drive, but the move took seven minutes.
The Skyhawks then put it away with an 11-play, 64-yard march. Brady accounted for all but 11 of the yards, scoring from the 11 with 7:26 to go.
H – T.J. Brady 41 run (kick failed), 9:58
H – Brady 28 run (Sean Hutchison kick), 3:15
H – Brady 27 run (Brady run), 7:52
BL – Wil Carter 5 pass from Robert Barrow (Zach Grover kick) 0:59
H – Brady 11 run (Hutchison kick), 7:26
BL –Carter 15 pass from Barrow (Grover kick) 3:15
Rushing – BL: McGuire 28-147, Barrow 8-35. H: Brady 27-262, Garrett 8-52.
Passing – BL: Barrow 21-30-1-168, McClure 1-1-0-10. H: Garrett 3-4-0-14, Theodore 1-1-0-2.
Receiving – BL: Owens 3-17, Carter 8-75, Bynum 5-43, Barrow 1-10, McGuire 3-25. H: Heath 2-14.