JEWELL - The homecoming celebration began earlier than expected for the South Hamilton starters Friday night at Taylor Field.
The fun began 13 or 14 minutes early, if you want to put a number to it.
After a showcase of dominant football, the Hawks were able to clear the sideline and let the reserves join the party late in the third quarter and for the entire fourth quarter in their 45-22 dismantling of Class 1A District 3 rival West Fork on a near-perfect late September evening.
DFJ photo by Tracy Runneberg
South Hamilton’s Andy Cook (3) is brought down by West Fork’s Spencer Halloran following a nice gain in the Hawks’ 45-22 homecoming victory on Friday.
South Hamilton (4-1, 2-1) built a 45-6 advantage heading into the final period and a pair of late touchdowns by the Warhawks (1-4, 0-2) did nothing to dampen the team's mood.
Offense, defense, special teams - you name it and the Hawks dominated.
"It went extremely well," South Hamilton head coach T.J. Schaefer said. "Up to this point I couldn't ask the boys to play better football. The best football we've played over the last two years is when we play together as a team and play unselfishly, and the boys have taken that to heart. We've just got to keep that up all season."
SOUTH HAMILTON 45, WEST FORK 22
West Fork 0 6 0 16-22
South Hamilton 6 17 22 0-45
SH - Devin Howard 25 run (kick failed), 9:23.
SH - Trevor Ullestad 45 pass from Matt Hislop (Ullestad kick), 11:50.
SH - FG Ullestad 22, 8:36.
SH - Howard 1 run (Ullestad kick), 1:18.
WF - Evan Sprung 39 pass from Spencer Halloran (pass failed), 0:24.
SH - Sam Waid 39 run (Ullestad kick), 10:24.
SH - Howard 23 run (Nathan McSparin pass from Ullestad), 9:27.
SH - Howard 2 run (Ullestad kick), 2:33.
WF - Halloran 29 run (Halloran run), 9:38.
WF - Colin Arndt 34 run (Tyson Pillard run), 2:19.
RUSHING - WF: Spencer Halloran 13-119, Tyson Pillard 4-26, Colin Arndt 3-40. SH: Devin Howard 21-184, Sam Waid 7-59, Andy Cook 7-43, Garrett Evans 4-23, Titan Johnson 4-1, Luke Peters 1-0, Charlie Reiter 2-0, Matt Hislop 1-(-2), David McMenamin 2-(-5).
PASSING - WF: Halloran 8-29-5 109, Arndt 1-3-0 9. SH: Hislop 3-6-0 92, Colin Hill 0-2-0.
RECEIVING - WF: Arndt 3-53, Evan Sprung 2-43, Logan Plagge 2-11, Austin Neff 1-2. SH: Zach Zoske 2-46, Trevor Ullestad 1-46.
TACKLES (Leaders Only) - SH: Ullestad 5, Cook 4, Evans 3.5, Waid 3.
Senior defensive back Trevor Ullestad thrust himself to the top of the state's interception leaderboard - regardless of class - with three picks of West Fork quarterback Spencer Halloran. Ullestad now has six on the season.
"Trevor Ullestad had another great night for us," Schaefer said. "I think it's just having a lot of game experience. He's a great athlete and he's a little underrated because he's such a quiet kid."
The Hawks' secondary frustrated Halloran - an all-district signal caller a year ago - throughout the contest. Halloran threw five interceptions in all and managed to complete just 8 of 29 passes for 109 yards. Garrett Evans and Charlie Reiter also came up with INTs.
Halloran rushed for 119 yards, including a 29-yard fourth-quarter touchdown sprint, but only 50 of his yards came against the Hawks' starting defense.
"I was extremely happy with the way the defense played," Schaefer said. "We contained their quarterback really well."
South Hamilton's offense had no problems moving the ball. The Hawks racked up 395 yards of total offense, 303 of which came on the ground. Quarterback Matt Hislop only aired the ball out six times; he completed three passes for 92 yards and one touchdown - a 45-yard strike to Ullestad on the opening play of the second quarter that pushed the Hawks' advantage to 13-0.
Tailback Devin Howard did the brunt of the damage, as he sliced up the Warhawks' defense for 184 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Sam Waid added 59 yards on seven totes and Andy Cook picked up 43 yards on seven carries.
"I didn't want to pass a whole lot, I just wanted to get the running game going," Schaefer said. "(Howard) didn't have huge breakaway runs; he was a little more patient and ran a little bit harder. He waited for a second for the hole to develop and once he saw it he just flew to it. He was determined to do well this game and the offensive line played well for us."
Howard put South Hamilton in command early in the first quarter with a 25-yard sprint to the end zone and he added a 1-yard touchdown plunge late in the first half to extend the Hawks' lead to 23-0.
West Fork answered with just 24 seconds remaining in the opening half on a 39-yard scoring pass from Halloran to Even Sprung, but South Hamilton owned the third quarter with 22 consecutive points to slam the door.
Waid busted through the defense for a 39-yard TD rumble with 10:24 left in the period, Howard found a seam and scampered to the house from 23 yards out just 57 seconds later and then added his fourth score on a 2-yard run with 2:33 remaining.
It was all academic from there.
Zach Zoske caught two passes that covered 46 yards in the victory. Ullestad piled up five tackles and Cook put his hat in on four.
Now sitting in second place in the district behind Dike-New Hartford (5-0, 3-0), South Hamilton will face another critical test in its pursuit of a postseason bid on Friday when it hosts Aplington-Parkersburg (2-3, 1-1) at 7 p.m.
The Falcons are coming off a 56-14 non-district loss to North Fayette, but the tradition of the program tells Schaefer that they cannot be taken lightly.
"We've really got to bring our heart and soul and we have to be ready to play smash-mouth football," he said. "A-P might be a little down this year, but they still know how to win. I'm sure they're not very happy with the way the season has gone and they'll want to do something about it."