HAMPDEN, Maine — A pair of 100-yard rushing efforts by Leavitt trumped Hampden Academy’s 200-yard passing performance and the Hornets of Turner remained unbeaten with a 37-21 victory.
In all, the 5-0 Hornets rushed for 375 yards on 48 carries — an average of 7.8 yards per carry — on a chilly Friday night on Hampden Academy’s field.
“I don’t think we did anything different than we have the last few weeks,” said head coach Harry McCluskey, whose Broncos dip to 2-3. “Our kids played well, but I think we wore down a little bit, but we were giving away a hell of a lot of poundage.”
Leavitt’s sizable offensive line of center Matt Pellerin, tackles Doug Nash and Zach Renaud, and guards Mitch Cobb and Luke Wiley paved the way for running backs Josh Strickland and Tyler Green.
Strickland led the way with three touchdowns and 169 yards on 16 carries while Green finished with 157 yards and two TD’s on 18 carries.
“Those guys splitting the carries keeps them fresh and I think that wears teams down at the end of games,” said Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway.
Leavitt’s punishing ground game offset a brilliant passing performance by Broncos quarterback Shawn Smith, who completed 17 of 33 pass attempts for 225 yards and one touchdown without an interception.
“Smith threaded the needle on a few, but we got a little pressure on him and I think that helped a little,” said Hathaway, who was happy to trade Hampden’s passing yards for his rushing yards. “That eats a little bit more clock, and I like that.”
He also liked his team’s quick start as the Hornets made it 6-0 on Strickland’s 57-yard TD run with 8½ minutes left in the opening quarter off a sweep to the right side. Leavitt made it 9-0 with 45 seconds left in the first via Nick Urquhart’s 30-yard field goal.
Hampden answered with 3:20 left in the second quarter via a nine-play, 86-yard drive capped by Smith’s 1-yard run up the middle, but the Hornets responded with their own nine-play drive covering 69 yards and ending with Green’s 6-yard TD run with 24 seconds left in the half.
Hampden tied it up (15-15) midway through the third after a late hit penalty on a Leavitt punt gave the Broncos a first down at the Leavitt 28-yard line. Six plays later, Smith found Coplin Fickett for an 8-yard TD reception on a slant pattern to the middle of the end zone.
Leavitt would score on its next two possessions to take over the momentum for good, however. Strickland capped a six-play drive with an 11-yard TD run on a scamper down the right sideline and a lunge into the end zone and — after his Hornets foiled a fake punt attempt by Hampden and took over possession at the H-42 — scored again. This TD was a 29-yard run off a slant play to the left with 7:36 left in the game. Hampden never got closer than 10 points the rest o the game.
The first of Leavitt’s consecutive scores was set up by a fumble recovery at the H-47 by Matt Pellerin.
“Playing from behind hurt us. We came back and fought hard, but we ran that counter and that turnover turned out to be very costly,” McCluskey said. “I think once we got out of our rhythm and kind of had to pass every down, after that turnover, that gave them a lot of momentum.”
Leavitt was led defensively by Pellerin (1½ sacks, fumble recovery) and Landry Turner (2½ sacks, forced fumble).
“Defensively, we made some coverage adjustments,” Hathaway said. “We didn’t think they’d have much success running on us, but we needed to shore up things in the pass game with some personnel changes and played our nickel package most of the second half. We wanted to play Green over the top of [Nolan] Turner and keep him from getting anything deep.”
For the 2-3 Broncos, Alex Van Uden had two sacks and Justin Rodgerson deflected or broke up three passes.