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“We have to win next week. That is all we are focused on right now,” Thunderhawks coach Rick Haynes said. “We will worry about Week 11 if we get there.”
Jack Dobrozsi paced East with 164 rushing yards and three scores, while quarterback Sean Church ran for 102 yards and one score. The Thunderhawks had 394 yards on the ground, 236 in the second half.
“I thought we had the running game going from the start, but we struggled to get off the field defensively early,” Haynes said. “Overall, I thought we played pretty well tonight.”
HHS coach Chad Murphy said a big East kickoff return to start the second half turned the tide for good.
The Big Blue (1-8, 1-6) only trailed 14-7 at the half and moved the ball well in the opening two quarters, but Murphy conceded his team continues to struggle with handling adversity.
“The kickoff return was huge,” Murphy said. “I hate to say it, but that was the game. They score two plays later and go up two scores, and we are not a good passing team. I mean, it is 14-7 at half and we are battling. We felt good coming out after half, and then adversity hits. It is hard to play catch-up against a triple-option team that can chew the clock.”
Keyshawn Stephens had a big game for the Big Blue, rushing for 137 yards and two scores. Kaleb Johnson added 79 yards.
Hamilton ran 61 plays compared to only 38 for East, but the Thunderhawks hurt HHS with long runs after missed tackles on a rainy night.
Murphy said the Big Blue missed an opportunity to grab momentum in the first half.
“That is a playoff team, and if we don’t give them the turnover, it is a 7-7 game,” Murphy said. “We are right there. I mean, we are right there. Then they get momentum with that triple-option and it just wears on you, wears on your defense.”
After a scoreless first period, East broke through after recovering a fumble on the HHS 22. Dobrozsi didn’t waste time, scoring from 18 yards out. The Thunderhawks extended the lead to 14 when Church scored from 9 yards out.
The Big Blue cut the deficit in half when Stephens scored with eight seconds left in the half.
Dobrozsi had a 9-yard scoring run and Donny Wilkinson went over from 10 yards out to put East up 28-7 in the third quarter. Stephens cut the gap to 28-14 early in the final stanza, but East ran off the last 19 points.
“I hate it because we are battling,” Murphy said. “Our defense is playing their tails off and we are playing in a really good football game against a really good football team, and then it gets ugly.”
HHS wraps up the season at Princeton next Friday.
Lakota East 0-14-14-19—47
L: Jack Dobrozsi 18 run (Gavin Myers kick)
L: Sean Church 9 run (Myers kick)
H: Keyshawn Stephens 1 run (Zach Welch kick)
L: Dobrozsi 9 run (Evan Yablonsky kick)
L: Donny Wilkinson 11 run (Yablonsky kick)
H: Stephens 7 run (Welch kick)
E: Dobrozsi 47 run (Kick failed)
E: Wilkinson 10 run (Kick failed)
L: Jackson Leahy 32 interception return (Yablonsky kick)