East Hamilton and Ooltewah may be separated by just 7 1/2 miles, but the third-year Hurricanes still have a way to go to catch their big-brother Owls.
Owls quarterback Bradley Stephens' potent passing attack removed any doubt in this inaugural backyard rivalry as Ooltewah cruised to a 41-13 victory Friday night at a packed James N. Monroe Stadium.
Stephens did most of his damage early. The senior threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns before halftime.
Ooltewah coach Shannon Williams said the game plan was simple: Get the Ows' athletes the ball in space and watch them work.
"That's just what we do," Williams said after the Owls improved to 2-0. "Our deal is we've got some athletes on the outside and we've got to get them the ball. If we pitch and catch, we've got a chance [to score] every time we throw. We had some receivers step up and make big plays tonight.
Stephens was pulled midway through the second quarter, then re-entered the game after two Logan Jackson touchdowns closed the gap to 31-13. He played all but the final minutes of the game and ended with 320 yards and one interception on 15-of-30 passing.
The Ooltewah defense also got off to a fast start. The Owls grabbed two interceptions and sacked East Hamilton quarterback Hunter Moore four times in the decisive first half.
"It was a test of pride," said senior Mikhail Creech, who ended with four catches for 137 yards and two interceptions. "We've been talking about this game for three years. But our coach preached to treat like any other game, not a Super Bowl."
Already leading 3-0, the Owls needed one play to light up the scoreboard on their second possession. Receiver Matt Sealor turned a short slant pass into a 70-yard touchdown.
Stephens was soon back to picking apart the 'Canes defense, this time connecting with TJ Warren for a 40-yard strike with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
Creech would get his turn, outrunning the secondary on a 73-yard sprint. Creech also had a 67-yard TD called back on a holding penalty.
Desmond Pittman broke loose up the middle for a 27-yard rushing score, giving the Owls a 31-0 lead.
Callum Whishart kicked two field goals, the longest from 37 yards. Phillip McClain added an 82-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.
The Hurricanes (0-2) were led by Jackson, who rushed 15 times for 105 yards. The 'Canes were held to 146 yards while Ooltewah collected three interceptions and six sacks.
Despite this lopsided score, this budding rivalry had a playoff vibe for the over-capacity crowd. Legendary former coach Benny Monroe and Jacques Smith, former Owl and current Tennessee Volunteer, were in attendance.
Before the game, the Hurricanes ran through a homemade sign that read "Hey Ooltewah, we left for a reason." Many of the Hurricanes seniors spent their freshman year at Ooltewah.
"I've known a lot of them since middle school," Creech said of the 'Canes. "We still keep in touch, but once we step on that field, it's a whole different animal."
East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said a moral victory was not on his mind upon his return to Ooltewah.
"Our expectation was to win," said Gatewood, a former head coach and assistant at Ooltewah. "But Ooltewah had the same expectations and they executed a little better than we did in the first half.
"I like watching them play, but I like them a lot better when we're not playing them."