We traveled a little further south of Central Arkansas to Garland County to catch a showdown of Hot Springs schools between the Lake Hamilton Wolves and Hot Springs Trojans.
In the final week before conference play begins across the state, the Trojans were coming to town in hopes of picking up their first statement win of the season against a talented undefeated Wolves team, the defending 6A state runner-up but the Wolves had a different idea.
The opening kickoff set the tone for how the game would go when Justin Crutchmer took it 83 yards putting the first points on the board in favor of Lake Hamilton. Three plays later, Caleb Waller intercepted Hot Springs quarterback Isaac Shelor’s pass and returned it 20 yards for the pick-6. Just like that, Lake Hamilton had 14 points on the board in less than a minute without the offense seeing the field.
Hot Springs’ next drive was extended due to penalties back and forth from both teams before the Wolves finally got the ball back at the Trojan 38. A block in the back moved the Wolves back to around midfield but they were able to push the ball close to the red zone and Alex Hurtz capped the drive with a 33-yard field goal to extend Lake Hamilton’s lead 17-0 with 4:35 left in the half.
It only took two more plays for Lake Hamilton to do more damage after another Waller interception giving the Wolves excellent field position. Kendrick Martin got in on the scoring fun five plays later taking the handoff from quarterback Grant Bearden and dashed 10 yards to put the Wolves up 24-0 late in the first quarter.
After another stalled drive by Hot Springs, Crutchner would add to his highlights busting through multiple tackles for a 65-yard score giving the Wolves a 31-0 commanding lead. Crutchner touched the ball 7 times eclipsing 184 total yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half while taking over for injured all-state running back Owen Miller. “Whenever Owen went down against Malvern, I knew I was going to have to step up,” Crutchner said. “On my long run whenever I saw the holes open up and I broke that tackle, I knew I was gone. This team has a lot of confidence and want to get back to state.”
Lake Hamilton head coach Tommy Gilleran knows he has a great defensive player in Crutchner, but he was not surprised by his success on offense against Hot Springs. “We’ve always known he is pretty good, but since he starts on defense we try to two-platoon and not crossover,” Gilleran stated. “We’ve got some other kids who can play too, but Justin is really special and has a chance to make us better from here on out and hopefully through the playoffs.”
Hurtz would add another field goal from 34 yards out for the 34-point lead, then Gavin Robbins later made a leaping catch that turned into a 29-yard score and the games’ final points 41-0 with 5:40 remaining in the first half.
With the sportsmanship rule enforced beginning in the second half, Lake Hamilton got some valuable reps for the back-up players as the clock continued to tick and clinched its third straight game scoring over 35 points and first shutout of the season. The Trojans (2-2) were held to 63 total yards including just 10 in the first half.
Despite the great start, Gilleran knows the true season begins next week in conference play especially since his team competes in the brutal 6A West. The Wolves open up conference play traveling to Mountain Home. “We’ve got a long trip and have to get our mind focused,” Gilleran stated. “It’s very easy to get unfocused when you travel four and a half hours for a football game. We’re going to talk about that this week and get ready so when we do get there we can dominate the game like we should.”
Hot Springs is off next week and plays again on October 1st at home against the Hope Bobcats in its 5A South conference opener.
Article published by Kyle Sutherland, @k_sutherlandHTP on Twitter