On a crisp and magical senior night at East Hamilton High School, Hunter Moore left nothing to chance.
Not the crazy TSSAA postseason selection process. Not the potential -- and permanent -- feeling of losing his last regular-season game as a Hurricane. Not leaving the facility on this memorable occasion with anything short of victory.
"It's pretty special," Moore said after completing 8 of 13 throws for 218 yards and three scores in a 41-11 District 5-AAA win over Bradley Central. "We tried to take it as any other game as best we could and do what we know we can do."
The Hurricanes (8-2, 6-1) were nearly perfect on both sides of the ball in a decisive and powerful opening 18 minutes. Behind Moore's precise play-action passing and a swarming defense that pressured Bradley quarterback Brett Standifer from locker room to parking lot, the Hurricanes seized control 20-0 after three possessions.
Moore connected on his first six passes for 139 yards and two quick scores to speed merchant Tony Francois. Moore's 1-yard scoring run and fellow senior Tre Herndon's 9-yard score capped the nearly flawless East Hamilton first half in which the Hurricanes punted just once, committed one penalty and the lone blemish was an acrobatic interception by Bradley's Austin Foss.
"We didn't feel any pressure, really," said Francois, who had four catches for 181 yards and three scores and now has 1,194 receiving yards this season. "I know with Hunter, if we get man coverage, I get a little grin on my face for sure."
All of the East Hamilton program shared in the smiles Friday as the Hurricanes claimed a share of the district title and made sure everyone in green this side of the Green Giant and the Green Lantern got to play. When reserve running back Kendall Henderson scored to push the lead to 41-3, the celebration was on for the Hurricanes.
"This is a special win for this group and for our program because of the guys before them that laid the foundation," East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said. "And that is what we want. We talk about being a program more than being a team, because a team last just one year."
The Hurricanes' year is certain to be extended. The same can not be said for the Bears, who are 5-5 and will be waiting uncertainly as the rest of the state sorts the Rubik's Cube that is the TSSAA playoff puzzle.
Unable to create time or space for its crew of talented wide receivers, Bradley's offense never found its rhythm. Bears senior wideouts Dee Crisp and Cal Pickel -- a duo who had combined for 91 catches for 1,200 yards through the first nine games -- were catchless through the first two quarters.
A visibly upset Floyd refused comment after the loss, which was capped by freshman Cole Copeland's late TD pass to Tyler Carpenter. It was one of the few Bradley offensive highlights after the Hurricanes forced five turnovers and recorded three sacks amid relentless pressure.
"Our biggest concern is always us," Gatewood said. "We just want to stay focused on us and keep getting better."
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.