PEARCY, Ar. — Desperate times call for desperate measures, and that’s what Lake Hamilton football coach Tommy Gilleran did in his preparation for West Memphis in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Gilleran replaced his senior quarterback Grant Bearden with sophomore Easton Hurley, the better passer of the two.
Hurley’s performance Friday night at Wolf Stadium backed up Gilleran’s difficult decision.
Hurley completed 6 of 9 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns in leading Lake Hamilton past the Blue Devils, 41-6. A 1-yard touchdown plunge by senior fullback Tevin Hughes with 10 seconds left in the first half made it 41-6.
The clock ran non-stop the final two quarters. Neither team scored, but West Memphis reached the Wolves’ 6 before fumbling the ball away.
“Easton gives us a better opportunity to throw the ball,” said Gilleran. “Grant is probably better reading the defenses. We felt like if we’re going forward and hope to win a state title we’ve got to throw the ball a little bit.
“Grant is a great kid, a great leadeer. He’s a program kid. This was a tough thing for everyone, but Grant is supportive on this program. We brought him in to talk, and told him this was the best opportunity for us. He understands that. Tonight is the first time in a while that we’ve thrown for 200 yards.”
All 219 passing yards came in the first half, while 228 of the Wolves’ 278 rushing yards also came in the first two quarters.
Lake Hamilton (9-2) scored touchdowns on all five of its first half possessions.
Junior Justin Crutchmer raced 39 yards for the game’s first points with 9:21 left in the opening period. Hughes scored the first of his three TDs on a a 1-yard run, and Crutchmer hauled in an 80-yard scoring pass from Hurley with 1:32 left in the first quarter.
West Memphis got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when Jarrell Shepherd caught a 36-yard TD pass from quarterback Bryson Jenkins, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 189 yards.
Less than two minutes after the Blue Devils’ score, Hughes plowed in from 12 for his second TD with 7:33 left before intermission. The Wolves got the ball back and Crutchmer caught a 29-yard TD pass with 1:26 left in the first half. Hughes added his final score seconds later.
Gilleran was not pleased with some things, like eight penalties, including five holding penalties.
“Pass defense is something else that we’ve got to continue to work on,” said Gilleran. “Especially for next week’s game at El Dorado. They’ve got kids who are all fast. If we don’t defend them well it’s going to be a long night. We may have to move some people around to find a way to stop them. I think El Dorado and Benton is a good comparison, except the El Dorado quarterback is a lot faster.”