In the SCISA Class 3A championship game at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium, Augusta Christian won 21-14, ending Hammond’s unprecedented run of state titles at six.
“It’s been a great run,” Hammond coach Erik Kimrey said. “These kids have left a tradition at Hammond that, probably, will never be matched.”
Augusta Christian profited from a 5-1 turnover margin, as Hammond fumbled in the red zone five times but remained a danger until the end.
Three Hammond fumbles helped Augusta Christian take a 7-0 halftime lead, and the Lions added a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half to put Hammond in an unfamiliar position — on the wrong end of a two-possession game.
With 3:03 left in the third quarter, William Love reeled in an Augusta Christian interception in Lions territory and returned it to the Augusta Christian 6-yard line. On the next play, Skyhawks running back Quayshon Myers sold the fake handoff, allowing quarterback Jake Nidiffer to sneak into the end zone and put the Skyhawks on the board.
On their next drive, Myers supplied the Skyhawks with 51 yards as they pushed to the Lions 4. Hammond went for it on fourth-and-2 from there, and Nidiffer’s attempt to connect with Braden Shockley fell dead in the end zone.
And on the ensuing drive, with 6:49 left to play, Augusta Christian’s Thomas Banks rumbled 98 yards down the sideline to score.
When the Skyhawks looked to respond, driving to the Lions 16 with 5:09 to go, Hammond’s fourth fumble proved a brief setback. The defense held, and Hammond got the ball back at the Lions 25, and this time Nidiffer hit Cannon Smith deep in the end zone to cut the deficit to seven points with 3:50 remaining.
Hope remained as Hammond then recovered its onside kick at the Augusta Christian 32.
“That was a great call by Erik to go for that onside kick. We thought we had it covered,” Augusta Christian coach Keith Walton said. “You could feel the momentum swing back to them.”
But when the Skyhawks pushed to the Lions 8, fumble No. 5 sealed the deal, giving Augusta Christian possession with 2:10 left to play.
Hammond’s turnover troubles began in the second quarter.
Nidiffer hit Myers on the run along the right boundary for a 45-yard catch-and-run that put the Skyhawks at the Lions 12 with a first down. But Hammond fumbled at the 6, and Augusta Christian recovered. The Skyhawks’ defense held, with William Love and Logan Smith leading the charge to set the Lions back. Augusta Christian was forced to punt from its end zone.
Braden Shockley’s return of the short kick gave Hammond control at the Lions’ 16. Again, the Skyhawks fumbled away their opportunity to take the lead.
And the Skyhawks’ third fumble of the night gave Augusta Christian possession at the Hammond 38. Finally, the Lions broke through the Hammond defense, and Roberson completed a 10-yard pass to Thomas Banks to open scoring with 27 seconds to go in the half.
The Lions, who defeated Hammond by one point in their mid-October meeting, completed the season with an unblemished 13-0 record.
“I’m just happy for my seniors. It’s a great way for them to go out,” Walton said. It was the Lions’ first championship appearance since 2006 — the game that started Hammond’s title streak.
A: Thomas Banks 10 pass from Tyler Roberson (Heath Brace kick)
A: Roberson 3 run (Brace kick)
H: Jake Nidiffer 6 run (Bill Horst kick)
A: Banks 98 run (Brace kick)
H: Cannon Smith 19 pass from Nidiffer (Horst kick)