Maintaining control of the ball offensively while holding the Patriots to only 12 offensive plays in the first half, Lake Hamilton knocked off Little Rock Parkview 24-14 Friday night at Wolf Stadium to take the sole lead in the 6A-West after Van Buren fell to Russellville.
The Patriots (4-1, 1-1 6A-West) entered this week's contest off a 48-28 win over defending Class 6A state champion Greenwood last week as the Wolves (5-0, 2-0) entered off a 36-7 wallop over Mountain Home. Things turned out much different for the Patriots this Friday night as the Wolves enforced a slow but steady offensive push throughout the night while the Patriots offense never could get going.
Leading 14-0 entering the second half, the Wolves kept their momentum going before Parkview got on the board for the first time at the 5:48 mark of the third quarter. After a Lake Hamilton fumble gave the Patriots the ball at their own 48 yard line, senior running back James Jointer got things going with several rushes into Wolf territory before Walter Hobbs tacked on another 10 yards before 6-4, 212-pound senior quarterback Jaylon White ran it in from 8 yards out for the score to pull within 14-6 after a failed kick.
The Wolves ended the third with the ball on the Patriot 19 yard line following a quick pass from senior quarterback Grant Bearden to junior Justin Crutchmer. Crutchmer added another strong rush, followed by fellow junior running back Kendrick Martin taking to the 2 before Bearden dove in for the 21-6 lead following senior Alex Hurtz' good kick.
Lake Hamilton kept the offensive push going while keeping Parkview in check throughout the rest of the quarter.
The Wolves got their final score with 2:19 remaining in the third after taking over on downs at the Patriot 5-yard line. It was the Parkview defense this time that held off the touchdown while Hurtz came out to kick a 25-yard field goal for a 24-6 lead.
Neither team scored until the 2:06 mark of the game when Parkview senior receiver Parker Perry got loose and went 80 yards for a touchdown, while also reeling in the 2-point conversion pass to set the final.
"It was big," said Lake Hamilton head coach Tommy Gilleran of the team's ability to maintain possession. "You know, our kids do a good job of recognizing what we need to do. We do a lot of work during the week figuring out what teams are going to do and then let our kids play, and our kids executed well tonight. And I thought they came off the ball well and, you know, opened holes for our backs. And then defensively, stopping a good offense like they have over there."
Although neither team scored during the first quarter, Lake Hamilton maintained control of the ball, holding the Patriots to a single three-play drive before the Wolves' first journey to the end zone started in the closing minutes of the quarter.
The 19-play drive was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown from senior running back Tevin Hughes with 5:46 left in the first half for a 7-0 lead.
Plagued by incomplete passes and penalties, the Patriots were forced to punt from the Wolf 44 yard line. Though the punt took a bounce at the Wolves' 7 yard line, Crutchmer began to work his magic running ball -- first cutting loose for a 65-yard pickup to the Parkview 31 before taking it in from 19 yards out with 47 seconds remaining for the 14-0 advantage going into the locker rooms.
"I think the big thing was our quarterback," said Parkview head coach Brad Bolding. "He just wasn't all there, you know. He's got a groin issue from last week, actually pulled both groins, so the fact that he could even get out there is kind of a miracle. But look, at the end of the day, we'll play them again. They're a great football team and they did a great job against us tonight, and we didn't play in the first half. We never got off the bus the first half. And then we tried to come back the second half, and that's tough to do on somebody that's really good. The exciting thing is: I think the state championship team will be out of our conference."
Gilleran gave credit to the team's relentless offensive push throughout the night.
"You know, that first half, I don't know how much we had it but I know we had two series and scored once and they had the ball for three plays," he said. "And so when they're not on the field, it's hard for them to score. And so I think that offensively us moving the ball, maintaining the ball, you know, made the defense better but also put them in a bind because they got tired late in the game, and we could make plays here."
Crutchmer led the Wolf offense with 173 yards rushing and 9 yards receiving, while Martin added 83 yards and Hughes had 57 yards. Bearden went 2-for-4 passing for 30 yards.
Senior Gavin Robbins and junior Izic Clenney led the defense with four tackles each while seniors Ethan Watson, Hunter Hannah and junior Alex McClard added two apiece.
Senior wide receiver Parker Perry led the Patriots with 80 yards rushing off the late-play run while Jointer added 78 yards on the ground and four tackles. Willie Eackles finished with 35 yards rushing while White went 4-for-17 passing for 25 yards.
Jude Onuoha led defensively with seven tackles followed by Alex Martin and Isiah McKenzie each with six and Kyveon Perkins and Ka'mel Rhodes each with five.
Lake Hamilton will host Russellville (3-2, 1-1 6A West) next week while Parkview heads to Benton (4-1, 2-0 6A West).