T.J. Brady has put up gaudy numbers in two seasons as Hammond’s every-down running back. But the Skyhawks senior gladly would trade all the individual glory for two more wins and a SCISA Class 3A championship.
“All any of us wants to do is bring back a championship to the school after coming up short the past two years,” said Brady, as he and the 11-0 Skyhawks prepare for Friday’s semifinal showdown against Ben Lippen at Edens Stadium.
“No one on this team cares about any statistic other than a win.”
Brady has been sensational in 2014 with 1,739 yards rushing, 415 yards receiving and 32 touchdowns. In two varsity seasons, he is averaging 8.5 yards per carry, 133.9 rushing yards per game and has tallied 55 touchdowns.
“T.J. has every intangible that you could ever ask for in a running back,” Hammond coach Erik Kimrey said.
“He has great patience, and that is an unbelievable asset for a running back with T.J.’s vision. We had to find ways to get him the ball as much as possible, yet not wear him out. He’s, maybe, not as fast or quick as some other backs we’ve had, but he’s had a lot of long runs this season. Once he makes up his mind when to hit the hole, he’s through it and into the open field a lot.”
Brady is the heart of the Hammond offense, though quarterback Nick Garrett has been a consistent run-pass threat and Cantey Heath has developed into a reliable go-to receiver.
But the key to Friday night’s outcome figures to be the play of the Hammond defense against Ben Lippen’s attack that features quarterback Robert Barrows.
The Skyhawks escaped with a 38-35 win against the Falcons in their season-opener on Aug. 29, prompting changes on defense.
“We gave up more than 500 yards, so we moved some people around to different positions,” Kimrey said. “Since then, we have been pretty solid, but we’re in for a big challenge this week. Ben Lippen is the best offensive team in the league by a mile.”
Moving senior D’Andre Lee-Smith around to different positions has been key to the unit’s improvement.
“Defensive co-coordinator Craig Farnsworth, who never gets enough credit around here, starting moving him around to different spots, and that freed D’Andre to have room to take advantage of his athleticism and start making more key plays,” Kimrey said.
Davis Bland, who leads the team with 114 tackles, is the anchor at middle linebacker.
Hammond is looking to return to the SCISA title game for the ninth consecutive year and to reclaim the crown it held for six consecutive seasons (2006-11).
Ben Lippen (9-3) has not been past the semifinals since 1998, when it was runner-up to Porter-Gaud.
Barrow is the driving force of an offensive unit that is averaging 36.3 points and 398.9 yards per game. The senior leads the Midlands in passing (2,832 yards) and touchdown passes (36) by wide margins.
Running back Aaron McGuire (1,294 yards rushing) and Cole Owens, who leads the Midlands in receiving yards (1,003), are other key cogs.