CLEVELAND, Tenn. — As the third quarter was nearing its end, riding a wave of enthusiasm that had helped Walker Valley rally to tie the game, the Mustangs looked to be in prime shape to upset state-ranked East Hamilton.
But au contraire.
The Hurricanes answered with senior quarterback Hunter Moore and his fleet-footed french flyer Tony Francois for 21 unanswered points to pull away for a 56-35 District 5-AAA victory.
Moore, a Central Arkansas commitment, threw for a career-high 348 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another score. Francois caught seven passes for 286 yards and four TDs, covering 57, 75, 22 and 81 yards.
"Hunter did a great job of staying relaxed and just leading us," Hurricanes coach Ted Gatewood said. "We've had some issues with some drops and some things like that the first couple of weeks, but he has a lot of confidence in the guys he's throwing to, and especially Tony. That kid can fly."
East Hamilton struggled early, losing two fumbles in the first quarter, the second of which Walker Valley turned into the game's first points when Cory Cook connected with Cooper Melton on an 18-yard TD pass.
But East Hamilton answered with three quick TDs, all Moore to Francois passes, to take a 21-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
By halftime, Moore already had 212 yards, with 159 of that going to Francois.
But Walker Valley began rallying in the third quarter, twice pulling within a touchdown and eventually tying the game on Colton Morrow's 30-yard interception return for a score.
"These kids kept fighting and I'll take that," Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan said. "We're a young bunch, and we've still got to learn to find a way to finish games like this."
The Hurricanes countered three plays later when Moore, on third-and-10, lofted a screen pass to Matt Milita, who weaved his way through the Mustangs defense for an 81-yard TD.
After forcing a Mustangs punt, Moore again hit Francois, this one also going 81 yards to begin salting away the win.
"We're a lot faster than they are, so we wanted to take advantage of our speed and hit some big plays," Moore said. "Even when they came back and tied it late, I knew I couldn't show any emotion to the rest of my team. I just had to stay calm and help us make plays."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...