East Hamilton vs. Walker Valley footballView 17 Photos
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Conner Thornburg has been a spark plug for a resurgent East Hamilton football program.
He was so again Friday night. The senior opened the game with an outstretched catch for a 76-yard score and broke a 79-yard run down the right sideline to the 1 late in the Hurricanes' 38-7 victory at Walker Valley.
"It's really hard to tackle Conner," said quarterback Haynes Eller, who had 236 yards passing and three touchdown throws, the last one a 7-yard out-route pass to Kaunyae Burgans as the third quarter ended. "He is so quick and fast. He will duck, dive or jump. He is a baller and does whatever it takes."
East Hamilton (6-2) came out slinging the football as a motivated offensive line that had been challenged in practice during the week provided a pristine pocket for Eller, who had 191 passing yards on 19 first-half throws.
With a 14-7 halftime lead the Hurricanes hit the ground hard to begin a second-half runaway.
Senior star running back Adam Caudle eclipsed the century mark on his eighth carry as he faked out several defenders and dragged several more down inside the goal line.
Looking to answer after an 8-yard touchdown catch by Cade Meeks, who had two of East Hamilton's three interceptions, Walker Valley (4-4) suffered a major blow. Facing a first-and-goal from the 3, the Hurricanes stuffed three straight runs before a play-action pass looked to be caught by Daniel Denton but was ruled out of bounds.
East Hamilton took the ensuing drive 99 yards on 16 plays while eating up the final six minutes of the third quarter to build a 28-7 lead.
"Our offensive line did an amazing job, and tonight was a total team effort," East Hamilton coach Grant Reynolds said. "I was very proud of our defense. When it counted we stepped up and got interceptions and stood tall at the goal line."
Hurricanes kicker Allen Karajic boomed a 46-yard field goal that had an extra 10 to 15 yards of distance to it. Caudle's 17th touchdown of the season finished the scoring.
"I definitely think a major part of this program's turnaround is the job our coaching staff has done," said Thornburg, who had 180 total yards (101 receiving) on four touches and an interception. "We are doing this with most of the same people we had last year. Haynes has also really taken over this offense, and his confidence is growing behind our O-line."
The Mustangs received a stellar performance from Kole Hall, who rushed for a game-high 174 yards on 22 carries. Walker Valley struggled in its opponent's territory as interceptions proved costly.
East Hamilton now will turn its focus to a tough road test against Anderson County (7-1) for a chance to help control the championship race in Region 2-4A. Each is 4-0 in region play.
"We need great effort again next week," Reynolds said. "It's a chance for us to have a region championship. We have to take care of business to have a shot at that honor."