On a spectacular night for high school football, East Hamilton dominated in the first half and cruised to a 49-0 blowout win over visiting East Ridge in the Region 3-4A opener for both teams Friday.
The Hurricanes (3-0) were led by another big performance from Juan Bullard, who rushed five times for 125 yards and three scores - all in the first half - after being named player of the week by the Times Free Press on Monday for his success in a win against Class 5A's Portland. Kaunyae Burgans had a strong first half as well against East Ridge, catching four Lake Clark passes for 49 yards and two touchdowns before the break.
"The kids came out and played hard from the get-go," East Hamilton coach Grant Reynolds said. "It's nice to be 1-0 in the region, and we're excited about where we're headed. With Burgans and Bullard, we're able to spread it out, and it helps to have those two guys because their defense has to defend the whole field."
After the teams traded punts to start the game, Bullard gave East Hamilton an early spark, scoring points on his first three touches. He opened with a 51-yard run for a touchdown, then scored the 2-point conversion to give the Hurricanes an 8-0 lead with 8:58 remaining in the first quarter.
After a blocked punt led to a short field, Bullard scored again on a 4-yard run with 7:17 remaining in the quarter.
"We prepare all day in our practices," he said. "We just came in as a team and executed what our coaches had told us to look for as we prepared for East Ridge."
The Hurricanes extended the lead on touchdown passes of 13 and 18 yards from Clark to Burgans that were sandwiched around another long touchdown run by Bullard, this one covering 46 yards.
Mel McFarland, who was a dominant force on defense for East Hamilton, scored the final touchdown of the first half on a 3-yard run with 1:17 remaining. The Hurricanes led 43-0 at halftime.
East Ridge (0-2) struggled to find any consistency on offense, with most of the Pioneers' attack coming from runs by quarterback Jalen Ellis.
"We're an extremely young ballclub this year - mainly a freshman and sophomore team - and playing a good team like East Hamilton," East Ridge coach Tim James said. "So we took our licks tonight. I was proud of our kids in the second half because we didn't lay down and roll over. We stayed resilient."
In the second half, East Hamilton was able to get some younger players playing time and rest its starters, and sophomore Willis Kyreese took advantage of the opportunity by intercepting Ellis and returning the ball for a touchdown on the final play of the game.
"We try to teach (the younger players) in practice or even after practice to get the young kids learning the plays and our routes," Burgans said. "So it was just awesome to see those guys come out here (in the second half). I told them last week that we want to try and put as many points on the board so the young kids can get out here and experience Friday night."
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com.