A scoreless first quarter against Wilson Hall brought the Skyhawks down to earth Friday night at Edens Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Barons, Hammond can play down there too.
Skyhawks quarterback Jake Nidiffer passed for 191 yards and a score, and Quayshon Myers ground out 127 rushing yards to beat Wilson Hall, 14-7.
“This is the second time this year that we went to the game that went down to the end,” Hammond coach Erik Kimrey said. “I was really proud of our guys, who made enough mistakes to lose the game. But they found a way to win.”
The Skyhawks (5-0) — who lost to the Barons (2-2) in the regular season before defeating them to win their sixth straight state title — knew what to expect. They didn’t know that they would see more of an option attack.
“They came out with something they hadn’t shown all year,” Kimrey said about Wilson Hall’s option. “Our guys did a good job and responded.”
Both teams battled to a scoreless draw in the first quarter. Hammond turned the ball over on downs on its opening possession and watched a drive die out when Wilson Hall’s William Creech picked off a Nidiffer pass in the end zone.
“I really think that if we had punched it in early when we should have, and taken care of the ball in the kicking game, it wouldn’t have been quite as close,” Kimrey said. “But I give their defense a lot of credit. They had a good plan.”
Hammond broke out to a 14-0 lead before halftime.
Wilson Hall pinned the Skyhawks back to their own 6-yard line early in the second quarter, but Nidiffer’s passing attack started to click. Nidiffer connected with Cannon Smith for 19 yards up the middle, then found Brandon Shockley for 41 yards on the next play to set the Skyhawks up at the Wilson Hall 11.
Two plays later Quayshon Myers ran in from 5 yards out to put the Skyhawks up 7-0 with 8:16 to go in the first half.
Hammond’s Beau Acuff recovered a fumble that stopped a Wilson Hall threat and led to a Skyhawks score. Acuff returned the ball 16 yards to the Wilson Hall 35.
“That was certainly a turning point in the game,”Kimrey said. “They were inside our red zone, and we were able to make a stand and go on to score.”
Acuff’s return set up Hammond’s 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Nidiffer found Shockley from 5 yards out 22 seconds before the half to put the Skyhawks up two scores.
After a scoreless third, Wilson Hall’s Jay Goodson ran in from 4 yards out with 6:12 remaining.
After that drive, the Skyhawks ran the clock out and sealed the win.
“You don’t win state championships for six straight years without being as talented as they are,” Wilson Hall coach Bruce Lane said. “They did a good job and did a lot of things like moving players in the right positions. They put them into a position where they made plays and they made a few more plays than we did.”
H – Myers 5 run (Krupa kick) 8:16
H – Shockley 5 pass from Nidiffer (Krupa kick) :22
W –Goodson 4 run (Hoover kick) 6:12
RUSHING – Wilson Hall, Goodson 14-28, McDuffie 7-30, Kinney 8-18, Pannell 4-9. Hammond, Myers 26-127, Nidiffer 3-7, Smith 2-2.
PASSING – Wilson Hall, Kinney 7-14-0. Hammond, Nidiffer 12-19-1.
RECEIVING – Wilson Hall, Pannell 3-7, Clinkscales 1-22, McDuffie 1-8, Holstein 1-6, Goodson 1-17. Hammond, Myers 3-27, Shockley 6-92, C. Smith 2-41, L. Smith 1-31.