It was worth the wait.
Lightning and inclement weather delayed kickoff for more than an hour, but once the teams finally took the soggy field, the game lived up to its hype as East Hamilton held off Signal Mountain 14-12 in a nondistrict high school football season opener Friday.
East Hamilton senior Tre Herndon blocked a 35-yard field-goal attempt with 37 seconds remaining to preserve the Hurricanes' win.
"We practice that play a lot, me coming off the edge and just getting to the ball as fast as I can," said Herndon, a Vanderbilt commitment, who also scored on a 90-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter. "I just laid out and felt the ball hit me in the chest. After that I didn't know what to do, other than just run around and get excited."
Herndon's kickoff return countered a Signal Mountain touchdown that had pulled the hosts within one. The Eagles answered Herndon's big play with an 11-play 68-yard scoring drive, capped by James McClellan's 10-yard run. But McClellan was stuffed for no gain by East Hamilton linebacker Griffin Reagen on the two-point conversion attempt.
After holding the Hurricanes to three-and-out, Signal Mountain again drove methodically downfield before stalling and having to try the late field goal.
"Everybody on the field for us contributed to this one tonight," Hurricanes coach Ted Gatewood said. "We made big plays when we really needed them there at the end. Matt Milita ran hard all night, and Tre showed why he's such a big-time prospect."
Milita finished with 110 yards on 19 carries and scored the Hurricanes' first touchdown on a 12-yard run that followed an Eagles fumble.
McClellan ran for 158 yards on 32 carries.
"I thought we were the more physical team," Eagles coach Bill Price said. "I'm just disappointed because all week we had talked about getting it into the fourth quarter with a chance to win, and we didn't get it done."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...