PEARCY -- When fans think of Lake Hamilton football, they think of a ground and pound rushing attack; this year is no different.
Junior running back Hayden Barton will be a key player in the Wolves' matchup tonight against Mountain Home.
"He is a really physical running back but also really skilled with his hands," Lake Hamilton head coach Tommy Gilleran said. "He catches the ball well and of course he runs the ball well, which we know. You can use him a lot of different ways. Off the field he is a goofball. He likes to mess around and play around. I think he enjoys life. He reminds me of his dad. I knew his dad a little bit. He was a little bit younger than me. I know he was kind of a goofball, too. He likes to play around and enjoy things.
"We had a talk the other day about how important it is for him in his leadership part. When he is on the field, he has to be all in and he usually does. He practices hard and he does things right. He is in a role where he has to be more mature and understand that people are looking up to him."
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Barton brings out the fun side of football for his teammates.
"I know I need to focus," Barton said. "I am out here just trying to have fun. Everything is so serious. I need to get the team a little looser so they can have fun and it is not just a job."
Barton averages just over 100 yards rushing per game, putting up a staggering 215 yards against rival Lakeside Aug. 25.
"That first game, he kind of went off," Gilleran said. "Of course, it was late when he went off on that game."
Barton discussed how the Wolves have practiced this week to prep for the Bombers.
"Practices, they have been good this week," Barton said. "In the weeks before, we had been goofing off a little bit. This week, I think we have actually clocked in pretty good. Everybody is starting to take it more serious after we have lost two games. I think everybody is starting to realize that practice is more important than it has been. We have done a lot of defensive work, getting everything figured out after Little Rock (Christian) bombed it on us. We have been working on running and getting new plays going."
Barton said when he breaks the huddle, he is focused on doing his job.
"I just try to make everybody else around me better," Barton said. "I get everybody fired up for the next play. I kind of go into a zone where I do not hear anything but everybody starts cheering us on. It just makes you want to score another one. It is a lot of pressure but if I just go in there and do what I usually do, it is not really that hard. I have got people to back me up, too. I have a good line this year, had a good line last year, a really good line. This year, we are a little young, but we are still going."
The Mountain Home game kicks off from Wolf Stadium at 7 p.m. after a two-game stretch away for the Wolves.
"Yeah, we are back home this week," Gilleran said. "Then I looked on our schedule and we have to go to Siloam Springs next week. We have a four hour drive next week. It is good to be here and play in our stadium. Last week we played on Thursday instead of Friday, so it was a day early. That gives you one less day of preparation. I am excited. I am looking forward to getting the stands full, the kids come out and they are going to play really well Friday night."
Gilleran said that Mountain Home and Lake Hamilton (1-2) have similarities on the field.
"Mountain Home, they are a really good football team," Gilleran said. "They have played really well this year. They are 2-1. Of course, they ran into Greenwood last week, and I think Greenwood is probably one of the best teams in the state just by looking at scores. I feel like we match up well with Mountain Home.
"We are similar, big physical teams that do different things. I think they are doing a really good job up there. The coach has done a good job in offseason but also with getting their kids in space and doing different things with them. I feel like it is going to be a tough game Friday night."
Senior Robert Dover is a big, 6-3 defensive end for Mountain Home and poses a problem for opponents.
"They have one of the better defensive ends in the state," Gilleran said. "We may not be able to run at him or we may. We are just going to have to see what it feels like when we get going. I feel like there is some certain things we can do."
Barton and sophomore Derynn Owens will be key rushers against Dover and that solid defense of Mountain Home.
Barton highlighted what it takes to start at running back for Lake Hamilton.
"It actually takes a lot, because we do not have that many receiver positions," Barton said. "If you are not on defense, which you usually play both sides. It is you against basically the whole team. If you are a skill guy you are probably playing running back somewhere. This week, against Mountain Home, they do have a pretty good D-end and I am sure they have a good secondary. I am pretty sure my guys will get up there to them. I bet I will get two touchdowns."
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