Lake Hamilton’s Tommy Gilleran optimistic about 2022 season if defense can pass key tests

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Lake Hamilton coach Tommy Gilleran optimistic in 2022.

 

PEARCY, Ar. — Lake Hamilton has won 29 games the last three football seasons. Head coach Tommy Gilleran believes his Wolves can match, or even surpass last year’s record of 9-3.

“If we can get better at throwing and catching the ball, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good,” said Gilleran. “We’ve got to do a better job of catching the ball.”

That said, Lake Hamilton must to a better job of defending the pass if the Wolves are to get better. That will be a tough challenge with Greenwood back in 6A South. The addition of Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian could mean reaching the postseason cannot be taken for granted.

The Wolves’ preseason scrimmage with Arkadelphia was not a confidence builder. This benefit contest resulted in a 28-28 tie. Lake Hamilton led most of the way, but the Badgers scored twice in the final five minutes. Arkadelphia passed for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in the scrimmage.

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Lake Hamilton eager to kick off 2022 season at Hot Springs Lakeside.

Key players out in scrimmage

Those passing yards by Arkadelphia were somewhat deceiving to Gilleran. He had two starting linebackers and a corner out, not to mention the Wolves’ starting wide receiver.

“We’re trying to throw more this year,” said Gilleran. “We did some other things different in that scrimmage.”

Lake Hamilton’ coach wasn’t happy about the Wolves conditioning, noting his players are not great shape now. He emphasized that was why the scrimmage with Arkadelphia was so important.

Other positive things to come out of the scrimmage was the performance of the offensive line. The kicking game got a boost when senior Randy Duran came out late. He is playing his first football season.

“We lost three fumbles, and one was returned for a touchdown,” said Gilleran. “We probably hadn’t fumbled that many times the last three seasons. Our guys have got to do a better job of holding the ball tight.

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Wolves’ Justin Crutchmer provides senior leadershop on both sides of the line.

Crutchmer a two-way standout

The Wolves’ offense has been blessed with outstanding running backs. Senior Tevin Woodley and Owen Moore were on the cover of the 2021 Hooten’s Magazine. Miller was on pace to be the school’s all-time leading runner when he suffered a season-ending leg injury. In stepped defensive standout Justin Crutchmer, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards. Crutchmer is committed to wrestle at North Carolina. He’s a two-time state champion.

Graduation also claimed quarterback Grant Bearden, who was replaced by junior Easton Hurley.

“Hurley is a savvy passer,” said Gilleran. “He’s also a key player for our basketball and baseball teams. Senior Kendrick Martin could arguably be the most important player in the Wolves’ lineup. He rushed for 200 yards in the preseason scrimmage, while shining on defense as a linebacker. Martin replaces Woodley at fullback.

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New fullback excites Gilleran

“Martin, who has started every game the last two years, is big, physical, and blocks well.” He rushed for 730 yards and five TDs last season.”

Senior Izic Clenney, sophomore Caleb Rouse and sophomore Hayden Barton provide depth for Lake Hamilton’s Wing-T. Senior Aydan Easter leads Hurley’s targets in the passing game. Junior tight end Cooper Kindt has his coach excited.

Senior Brayden Aitken is the only returning lineman at center. Junior Lucas McCain is top candidate at right guard. Senior Alex McClard is at left guard. Senior Connor Goff was the sixth lineman last season.

Lake Hamilton has shifted to a 3-4 on defense to emphasize its linebackers.

Throughout the interview Gilleran repeated¬† himself that the Wolves’ defense has got to do a better job of making plays.