TJ Holmes and Anderson County power past East Hamilton for region titleView 17 Photos
After losing three first-half fumbles Thursday night at East Hamilton, Anderson County pitched a second-half shutout while TJ Holmes powered his way between the tackles for 142 of his 201 rushing yards.
The stocky Holmes would not be denied as he carried the ball 38 times and scored three touchdowns in a 29-14 win to seal the third-ranked Mavericks' third straight Region 2-4A title and fifth overall.
"This football program is really hard-working," Holmes said. "After fumbling early I wanted to prove I wasn't going to let my team down. I wanted to be the dude. I wasn't in the first half, but I pulled it together."
Knowing they would be going up against a formidable front, the Hurricanes pried the ball loose early, recovering the ball in the opponents' territory each time.
East Hamilton senior Adam Caudle continued to display his nose for the end zone as he stumbled but regained control to break tackles for the first score of the game on a 9-yard touchdown run up the gut.
Anderson County (8-1, 5-0) found some life offensively as Stone Hatmaker locked in with receiver Austin Elliott for precise throws just over defenders down both sidelines in the second quarter, the second for a touchdown.
Added with a safety on a snap sailing over the Hurricanes' punter's head, the Mavericks led 8-7 with 8:37 left in the second quarter.
East Hamilton (6-3, 4-1) delivered its last score after its final fumble recovery.
Caudle sneaked out of the backfield down the left sideline for a 43-yard hook-up from Haynes Eller to take a 14-8 lead with 5:20 left in the half. It was Caudle's 19th touchdown of the season.
The Mavericks' standout running back got a jump start on his strong finish as Holmes capped off a 14-play, 67-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown to help build a 15-14 lead going into the break.
Holmes backed up a 222-yard, five-touchdown showing last week against Central with another bold performance.
Anderson County controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half and had a goal-line stand as well to clinch the region title.
"Up front they were bigger and stronger than us," East Hamilton coach Grant Reynolds said. "Scheme-wise you can't fix that. You just have to try to put the kids in position to make plays."
The Hurricanes will need a win on the road against Howard next week to secure a home playoff game.
"We have to let this one go," Reynolds said. "At the end of the day we played a really good football team that showed why they are one of the best in the state."