‘They were just better’: Hammond’s Erik Kimrey on loss to Southern Columbia
It was a week and an experience the Hammond football team won’t forget. It just wasn’t the result the Skyhawks were hoping to have against Southern Columbia.
Playing in front of a standing-room only crowd and national TV audience, the Skyhawks were overwhelmed Sunday by Pennsylvania-powerhouse Southern Columbia 36-0 at Edens Stadium. The loss snaps Hammond’s 25-game winning streak and was the first time the Skyhawks have been shut out under coach Erik Kimrey since September 2013.
“It is surreal that we were able to have this here,” Kimrey said. “Of course you wish you would put your best foot forward. I think if we would have done that, we could have been in a game with these guys. Again, we were outmatched in a lot of spots.
“When you are in a Week 0 game, all those ugly warts get exposed, and ours were exposed today, when a team can kind of outmatch you and bring the house and dare you to throw the ball every single down. And we struggled to get open and throw the ball and it showed. ... I think we could plan about as good as we could plan, but they just outplayed us. They were just better, stronger, faster, all those things.”
The Hammond-Southern Columbia game was a made-for-TV matchup and months in the making. It was the second highly anticipated Columbia-area game of the weekend on an ESPN network. Dutch Fork and Mallard Creek (North Carolina) ended in a 27-27 tie Friday night because of stormy weather.
Weather wasn’t an issue in this one as people started arriving at Edens Stadium around 8 a.m., six hours before the 2 p.m. kickoff. Hammond fans tailgated in the parking lot and in a tent set up in the end zone. The 500 or so Southern Columbia fans who made the 10-hour trip from Pennsylvania were in their seats about two hours before gametime and let out a big roar when the Tigers hit the field for pregame warmups.
Hammond and Southern Columbia are two of the of winningest programs in their respective states. The Skyhawks have won back-to-back SCISA 3A titles and 10 overall under Kimrey. Southern Columbia entered the game with a 32-game winning streak overall and had won 71 straight regular-season matchups. The Tigers play in Class 2A in Pennsylvania’s six-class system.
The game also featured two of the nation’s best prospects in the nation in Hammond’s Jordan Burch and Southern Columbia’s Julian Fleming. Burch has yet to commit to a college, while Fleming is committed to Ohio State.
The two top prospects even matched up with each other when Burch lined up as receiver and was guarded by Fleming, who plays defensive back, receiver and punts for the Tigers. The players spoke briefly to each other before and after the game and attended the same Under Armour camp earlier this year.
Both top prospects had their moments with Burch knocking down a pass to end a Southern Columbia drive in the first half. Fleming didn’t have many passes thrown in his direction on defense.
On offense, Hammond did a good job in keeping Fleming in check, and he told Kimrey that when the two spoke after the game. Many of the Hammond and Southern Columbia players took pictures with each other after the game to commemorate the moment.
“He frustrated me and I told him he schemed me right,” Fleming said. “I was a little frustrated in there. He (Kimrey) said if they took me out, we would have to rely on other players to make plays and we did.
“It was a great team effort on our part. From a high school football standout, this is the biggest stage it gets. It was a great opportunity and a great experience.”
Southern Columbia running back and Michigan commit Gaige Garcia ran for two scores, and quarterback Preston Zachman added a 38-yarder to put the Tigers up 8-0 in the first quarter.
Ian Huntington returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter to make it 29-0. Hammond turned the ball over six times, including five interceptions from quarterback Jackson Muschamp.
“You name any way they can beat you and they got beat,” Kimrey said. “The measure of a man isn’t how he does in success but how he responds to adversity. We got a lot of information on how we can be better as a football team. We made a lot of mistakes today. Against a team like that, you got to play perfect football in order to be in the game.”