Oak Ridge wanted to run.
East Hamilton wanted to run, too.
David Whiteside ran crazy.
Whiteside, East Hamilton’s sophomore running back, rushed for 84 yards and scored two touchdowns – he had a third score negated by a penalty – to lead the Hurricanes past Oak Ridge, 25-10, Friday night in the first round of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Class 5A football playoffs.
Whiteside, a 5-foot-6-inch, 160-pound sophomore who took over the rushing load when Matt Milita was sidelined with a bruised quad, scored on runs of 40 and 36 yards. Whiteside broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but a holding penalty nullified the play.
“I feel really good about how I played tonight and I think I can do this again,” Whiteside said. “If my O-line gives me holes like they did tonight, we can put some points on the board.”
With the victory, East Hamilton (9-2), ranked No. 6 by murphyfair.com, advanced to the second round next week and will play rival Ooltewah (9-2) at James N. Monroe Stadium. The Owls clobbered Stone Memorial, 47-7.
The two District 5-AAA rivals played on Sept. 20 and the Owls escaped with a 28-26 overtime win over the Hurricanes.
“That’s the whole objective,” East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said. “We want to live to play another week and have an opportunity to play another good, quality team. It’s going to be exciting. That’s what high school football is all about – they playoffs and having the chance to play somebody again.”
Said safety Hunter Parker, “This is a big win and we’re going to enjoy it a while, but not too long. We’ve got to go right down the road and take care of some more business when we play another good football team.”
East Hamilton, the No. 3 seed in its quadrant, trailed 10-7 at halftime, but changed the complexion of the game with two crucial plays in the third and fourth quarters.
After tying the game at 10-10 on Casey Malone’s 21-yard field goal capping the opening drive of the second half, Bailey Lenoir recovered an Oak Ridge fumble and the Hurricanes turned that golden opportunity into a 46-yard, eight-play drive with quarterback Hunter Moore scoring from 5 yards out to push East Hamilton into a 16-10 lead.
On the third play of the fourth quarter, linebacker Austin Gatewood blocked an Oak Ridge punt and Logan Hammond recovered it at the Wildcats’ 36. On first down Whiteside zipped through the Oak Ridge defense and rambled 36 yards for an insurance touchdown with 10:59 remaining.
“This was my best game,” said Whiteside, who came in with 177 yards rushing on 50 carries. “I took it as a challenge when Matt got hurt and I knew I would be getting more touches. I had to come through.”
“He’s growing up right before our eyes,” Ted Gatewood said. “David worked with Matt on a regular basis, so this is no big thing. The only thing we said to him was, ‘David, you’re going to get a lot more carries.’ ”
Milita missed last week’s regular-season finale and took a team-leading 629 rushing yards and nine touchdowns to the sideline with him. Whiteside had scored just one touchdown prior to Friday’s game.
Gatewood said he hopes to find out this week whether Milita will be able to play in Round Two.
“Right now, I just don’t know,” he said.
Whiteside almost doubled Oak Ridge’s ground attack by himself. The Wildcats (7-4) rushed 31 times for 45 yards, a meager 1.5-yard average.
Oak Ridge had 73 rushing yards at halftime, but the Hurricanes clamped down after intermission and forced the Wildcats to throw the ball.
“We had to run the ball to cut down the number of plays they could throw to (Tre) Herndon and Tony Francois,” Oak Ridge coach Joe Gaddis said. “The best way to stop them is to have the football. We had some success running early, but they took that away.”
The Hurricanes, who had 272 yards of total offense, threw for only 47 in the first half. However, Herndon, who has committed to play at Vanderbilt as a defensive back, wound up with seven catches for 91 yards.
Moore, a Central Arkansas commitment, completed 15-of-30 passes for 162 yards with one interception. He rushed eight times for 30 yards and six times – three on third down, three on fourth – made plays to keep drives alive, including a 29-yard pass to Herndon on third-and-five on a drive that ended with Malone’s field goal.
Moore, who has thrown for 2,730 yards and 20 touchdowns, also ran for a 6-yard gain on fourth-and-two and later capped that drive with his 5-yard touchdown run.
“I’m high on their quarterback,” Gaddis said of Moore, who was hurried, harassed and flushed from the pocket most of the night by the Wildcats’ blitzing from seven.
The Wildcats struck first, getting a 22-yard Brandon Nickle field goal with 2:47 left in the first quarter. After Whiteside’s 40-yard touchdown, the Wildcats scored on Jaylin Henderson’s 12-yard pass to Blake Goins, a 62-yard, six-play drive that answered Whiteside’s first touchdown.
If Oak Ridge felt uneasy about its three-point lead at halftime, it had good reason.
The Hurricanes used up almost half the third quarter on their first possession of the half and Malone, a junior, pulled them even with his field goal – he’s 6-for-6 on field goal tries this season.
On the Wildcats’ next possession, East Hamilton’s Bailey Lenoir, who has committed to UT-Chattanooga, sacked Oak Ridge quarterback Jaylin Henderson for a 6-yard loss and the Wildcats’ Brandon Nickle came up short on a 35-yard field goal try.
On the Hurricanes’ next drive, Moore hit Herndon three times on plays covering 12, 11 and 20 yards on a 46-yard, eight-play drive. The 20-yard gainer moved the Hurricanes to the Wildcats’ 5 and Moore scored on the next play, giving East Hamilton a 16-10 lead with 27.3 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats gained 4 yards on three plays and were forced to punt.
Austin Gatewood broke through and blocked Hunter Summer’s kick and Hammond smothered it, setting off a wild, momentary celebration on the East Hamilton sideline.
“My dad (coach Gatewood) used to wouldn’t let us do that because we were running into the punter,” the younger Gatewood said. “He didn’t trust us. We practiced it and schemed it this week and I was lucky enough to make the play.
“At that point we wanted to put the game away. They’re a great team and we needed to secure the win because they’re good enough to come back on us.”
Another turning point in the game, played on a cold, clear night at “Hurricane Hill,” came when East Hamilton stymied the run game and forced the Wildcats to throw. Oak Ridge didn’t have much success there either.
Parker had something to do with that, breaking up three passes.
“I like to think I’m a ball-hawk,” said Parker, who also has three interceptions this season. “We’ve got number two-one (Herndon) on the other side and it’s hard to get a lot of love when he’s on your team. Teams think he’s the only guy that can cover, but boy are they wrong.”
Oak Ridge, which has played football for 70 years and won eight state championships, now can wait for the 2014 season.
And for Gaddis, who is in his second stint as the Wildcats’ head coach, that’s not easy.
“(Coaching) is what I do,” he said. “You go so long and so hard, put in so many hours a day and for so many months and boom, it’s gone. The kids are resilient and they’ll go on to basketball or something else. But for me and my staff, it’s a depressing moment.”
Oak Ridge 3 7 0 0 – 10
East Hamilton 0 7 9 9 -- 25
OR – FG Brandon Nickle 22, 2:47
EH – David Whiteside 40 run (Casey Malone kick), 6:46
OR – Blake Goins 12 pass from Jaylin Henderson (Nickle kick), 3:28
EH – FG Malone 21, 6:52
EH – Hunter Moore 5 run (kick failed), 27.3
EH – Whiteside 36 run (Malone kick), 10:59
EH – Safety, OR snapped ball through end zone, 4:19
First Downs 10 13
Rushes-Yards 31-45 25-110
Passing Yards 120 162
Total Yards 55-165 55-272
Com.-Att.-Int. 10-24-0 15-30-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Punts.-Avg. 3-22.7 4-23.8
Penalties-Yds. 4-19 4-38
RUSHING — Oak Ridge: Isiah Jones 10-36, Jaleel Luster 7-29, Michael Rowe 5-5, Jordan Dunbar 1-minus 1; East Hamilton: David Whiteside 15-84, Hunter Moore 8-30, Team 2-minus 4.
PASSING — Oak Ridge: Jaylin Henderson 10-24-0-120; East Hamilton: Hunter Moore 15-30-1-162.
RECEIVING – Oak Ridge: Jiminquas Johnson 2-59, Ted Mitchell 3-28, Blake Goins 2-20, Isiah Jones 2-5; East Hamilton: Tre Herndon 7-91, Whiteside 3-29, Hunter Parker 2-23, Austin Gatewood 2-14.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)