Good football teams seem to always find a way to win, even when they don’t play their best game.
Such was the case at East Hamilton’s Larry Henry Stadium Friday night when the Hurricanes hosted unbeaten and third-ranked Red Bank.
The Hurricanes enjoyed a 289-231 advantage in total yards, but it was mistakes – namely turnovers – that ultimately cost the home team a chance at winning.
Red Bank scored following each of East Hamilton’s three first-half turnovers and that turned out to be the difference as the Lions hung on to win in a squeaker, 21-14.
The Red Bank defense has been a turnover machine early in the season with four fumble recoveries and six interceptions. They claimed two of each on Friday night and all were keys to the Lions improving to 4-0 overall with the non-region win.
“I just want you guys to know this is what it feels like to overcome a lot of adversity and still come out ahead against a good football team,” Red Bank coach Chris Brown told his players following the game.
“We played hard for four quarters and that’s how we beat East Hamilton tonight. We just had to work through some critical mistakes, but we knew we had a lead at the half and we didn’t want to take any risks in the second half,” he added.
East Hamilton coach Grant Reynolds really challenged his kids at the halftime break when basketball and volleyball star Madison Hayes was crowned homecoming queen. The Hurricanes responded in a positive fashion, but came up just a little bit short in their second-half comeback.
“We just made too many mistakes and you can’t do that against a team like Red Bank,” Reynolds said after making a few comments off the record venting his frustration about coming up short for the second time in four games.
“We just have to find ways to overcome those mistakes, but that’s all part of the learning process. I knew we had to limit Red Bank’s big plays and I feel like we did a decent job of that, but I challenged them at the break and they played with a heart of a champ in the second half.
“We fought tooth and nail in the second half, but came up just a little bit short. We’ll keep working and overcome stuff like that,” the veteran coach added.
Turnovers killed the Hurricanes in the first half as Red Bank scored its touchdowns after all three.
Cam Bell batted a Haynes Eller pass early in the first quarter before Delmontae Gustus intercepted it, giving the Lions the ball at the East Hamilton 33.
Red Bank needed just five plays before Madox Wilkey hooked up with Lucas Brown on a 22-yard TD strike. Kyle Smith booted the first of three extra points and the lead was 7-0 with 7:40 left in the opening stanza.
DeAngelo Ross recovered a Hurricane fumble at the Red Bank 29 with just over three minutes left in the quarter. Again, it took five plays for the Lions to score, the TD coming on a three-yard run by Lumiere Strickland with 1:27 left in the first.
The big play in that drive was a 53-yard sweep around the left side by Lucas Brown to set up Strickland’s touchdown.
Then with Clark Lockerby recovering another Hurricane fumble at the Red Bank 42, the Lions needed just four plays to cover the distance with Wilkey hooking up with Brown for the final 34.
East Hamilton got on the board late in the half when Eller hooked up with Conner Thornburg on a 10-yard scoring aerial with 1:46 left in the half. Allen Karajic’s kick got the hosts within 21-7 at intermission.
East Hamilton’s defense played lights out in the second half, limiting the Lions to a negative 10 yards for the final two stanzas.
But despite that heroic effort, the Hurricane offense couldn’t stand prosperity.
Midway through the third quarter, East Hamilton started at the Red Bank 33 following a short Lion punt.
The Canes moved down to the one before bad snap caused a lost 22 yards. A 40-yard field goal attempt by Karajic was blocked on the next snap.
Eller tossed a 30-yard touchdown strike to Thornburg with 6:45 remaining and the difference was 21-14 following the extra point.
Red Bank, which only had one first down in the second half, got it to start the drive following East Hamilton’s second TD. But that’s all the Hurricane defense allowed, forcing a punt from the Red Bank 41.
A bad snap didn’t allow Wilkey to successfully get a punt off and he was sacked for a 17-yard loss by Blaine Savage at the Red Bank 24 with 2:41 to play.
East Hamilton’s hopes for a possible upset went by the board when Eller’s pass was intercepted by Kel Eddins with 1:11 to play.
The game wasn’t over as the East Hamilton defense forced another Red Bank punt. The snap wasn’t good and Wilkey did his best to field it, barely getting his punt off the side of his foot for a net seven yards.
The Hurricanes had one final shot from the 25 with 2.7 seconds left, but the game ended when Eller’s pass was incomplete in the end zone.
Ross led the Red Bank ground attack with 55 yards on 14 carries while Brown had 53 on his only attempt. Brown also had six pass receptions for 93 yards, including the two touchdowns covering 22 and 34 yards.
Ross had two catches for 28 yards.
Caudle led the East Hamilton running game with 93 yards on 26 carries. Meeks ended the game with 62 yards on two trips.
Thornburg and Meeks both had five catches for 67 and 51 yards, respectively, with Thornburg getting both TDs.
East Hamilton also had a 15-11 advantage in first downs.
The Hurricanes hit the road next Friday for a key region game at Central while Red Bank will travel to McMinn Central.
RED BANK 14 7 0 0 -- 21
EAST HAMILTON 0 7 0 7 -- 14
RB – Lucas Brown 22 pass from Madox Wilkey (Kyle Smith kick), 7:40 left in first;
RB – Lumiere Strickland 3 run (Smith kick), 1:27 left in first;
RB -- Brown 34 pass from Wilkey (Smith kick), 4:10 left in second;
EH – Conner Thornburg 10 pass from Haynes Eller (Allen Karajic kick), 1:46 left in second;
EH – Thornburg 30 pass from Eller (Karajic kick), 6:45 left in fourth.
STATS RED BANK EAST HAMILTON
First Downs 11 15
Rushing Yards 19-107 33-126
Passing Yards 124 163
Passes (Comp-Att-Int) 10-23-1 16-32-2
Total Yards 231 289
Penalties-Yards 6-50 9-70
Punts-Average 7-29.6 5-42.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
RED BANK RUSHING: DeAngelo Ross 14 for 55 yards; Lucas Brown 1 for 53 yards; Lumiere Strickland 11 for 22 yards.
RED BANK RECEIVING: Lucas Brown 6 for 93 yards; DeAngelo Ross 2 for 28 yards; Lumiere Strickland 1 for 5 yards.
RED BANK PASSING: Madox Wilkey 10 for 23 for 124 yards.
EAST HAMILTON RUSHING:Adam Caudle 26 for 93 yards; Cade Meeks 2 for 62 yards.
EAST HAMILTON RECEIVING: Conner Thornburg 5 for 67 yards; Cade Meeks 5 for 51 yards.
EAST HAMILTON PASSING: Haynes Eller 16 of 32 for 163 yards.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)