HURLEY With his team huddled around for the post-game speech, East Central head coach Seth Smith stated the obvious to his victorious Hornets.
“Wow! You guys are pretty good, you know that?,” Smith said.
East Central improved to 11-0 with a 52-6 win over West Lauderdale Friday night to advance to the third round of the postseason for the first time in program history.
The Hornets will now travel to face South Pike, which beat Greene County 30-25 on Friday night to improve to 11-3.
East Central seems to be getting better with each week and has beaten every Class 4A opponent by at least 34 points this season.
“This is as fun and an enjoyable group as you’ll ever coach,” Smith said. “Their effort is always consistently great. Their attitude is consistently great. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Senior running back Tony Brown had another huge game Friday night, running 17 times for 295 yards and three touchdowns. His scoring runs came on distances of 75, 52 and 50 yards.
“Every time I touch the ball I expect to score,” Brown said. “I expect my O-line to do their job and I just break loose.”
The East Central offense proved yet again Friday that it can take it the distance on any snap, and in a variety of ways. The Hornets had touchdowns on their first snap of the game, a 46-yarder by Cameron Gray, and their first snap of the second half – a 52-yarder by Brown.
“(Brown) does a great job and his fullback (Louis Morgan) is pretty good,” Smith said. “We have a good line and they’re blocking well. The key, too, is when you play great defense and get as many extra possessions as we get. It allows us to be successful.”
The defense also got in on the fun Friday night when East Central junior linebacker Avery White stepped in the way of a West Lauderdale pass and sprinted 38 yards to the end zone, giving the Hornets a 24-0 lead with 4:48 left in the first half.
“We went over that play a lot during practice and I knew once I saw it I had to jump at the right time,” White said. “When I did, It fell it in my hands and I took it to the house.”
The East Central defense forced West Lauderdale into a 3-and-out to start the game and a short punt set up the Hornets at the Knights’ 46.
After confusing the West Lauderdale defense with some strange motion on East Central’s first snap of the game, Cameron Gray ran off the edge for a 46-yard touchdown.
“We were just hoping everybody would follow me,” Brown said of the play. “(Gray) just came around for the reverse and scored.”
On the second play of East Central’s next possession, Brown ran 75 yards almost untouched to give the Hornets a 14-0 lead with 3:51 left in the first quarter.
Branson Davis pushed the East Central lead to 17-0 on a 41-yard field goal with 7:43 left in the second quarter.
East Central, which had two touchdowns wiped out via penalties in the first half, led 24-6 at halftime.
West Lauderdale senior quarterback Turbo McKee did his best to keep his team in the game, completing 9-of-18 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 17 times for 122 yards.
Whatever hope West Lauderdale (8-5) had was put to an end when Brown ran for a touchdown on the first play of the second half.
“We have really, really good football players and excellent coaches that put them in position,” Smith said. “I’m just a small part of the puzzle. I’m glad to be a part of it.”