GEISMAR — With Dutchtown trying to put the game away from the Hammond 1-yard line Friday night at Griffin Stadium, a shotgun snap went over the head of quarterback Jared Sparks and, after a mad scramble, Hammond recovered at the Dutchtown 20.
That was, it would seem, the night in the nutshell.
The Griffins did hold off winless Hammond, 23-13, but it was one of the most lopsided competitive games you’ll see. Dutchtown (2-1) outgained the 0-3 Tornadoes 464-176 and had 24 first downs to just seven for Hammond. But thanks to six Dutchtown turnovers, four in the red zone, Hammond had the ball with six minutes left with a chance to tie.
“Those yards don’t mean anything if you don’t put it in the end zone,” said a frustrated coach Benny Saia. “Right now, it’s between our ears. The talent is there.”
Perhaps personifying the Dutchtown frustrations was running back Fitell Bolding, who rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries but also lost two costly fumbles.
“The thing is, he ran so hard,” Saia said. “You can’t fault the effort. But you have to secure the ball.”
The second Bolding fumble, at the Hammond 3, gave the Tornadoes unlikely life, giving them the ball down 21-13 with 6:07 left. But two plays later, a fumble by Hammond quarterback Reed Roberts in the end zone resulted in a safety and Dutchtown finally had cushion.
For Hammond, the yards allowed could be seen as a bit deceiving. The Dutchtown defense allowed one first-half first down on a 45-yard fake punt touchdown pass from Hammond’s Tyler Mcinney to Casterdale Collier.
That meant Hammond’s defense spent much of the game — 64 of the 107 snaps — on the field.
“Our defense played lights out,” Hammond coach Cecil Thomas said. “But our offense didn’t do them any favors. They couldn’t get off the field.”
For the most part, the Tornadoes defense found ways to survive.
All five Dutchtown fumbles were recovered by Hammond. And while Sparks was efficient, completing 10 of 14 passes for 154 yards, he was also intercepted in the red zone on a drive-killing play.
“The thing is, we spend 10 minutes out of every practice on ball security,” Saia said. “It’s just a mentality thing.”
Hammond, on the other hand, could sustain little on offense. Aside from the fake field goal and an 18-yard touchdown run on a fourth down by running back Gary Robertson (a score set up by a Dutchtown fumble), Hammond managed just two more first downs before the fourth quarter.
“As far as I’m concerned,” said Saia, “the defense pitched a shutout.”
And the offense showed signs of promise. Sparks’ passes were on the money, and Bolding, who had touchdown runs of 55, 8 and 2 yards, ran with physicality and, particularly on the 55-yard touchdown run, impressive burst.
That won’t matter, Saia said, if the Griffins don’t learn to finish drives.
“We’re 2-1, and hopefully this will get our attention,” he said. “Because if we don’t clean that up, we’re going to get embarrassed in our district.”