Eagles strike down Crossville

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By Chris Benefield/Sports Correspondent

Lightning struck early and late to propel the Hokes Bluff Eagles to a 27-13 homecoming victory over Crossville in Class 4A, Region 6 action last Friday (Sept. 11).

The win gave the 2-1 Eagles a perfect region slate after the opening night loss to county rival Southside while extended the Lions’ losing streak to 15 games stretched across parts of three seasons.

The Eagles’ first lightning strike came after the Lions fumbled the game’s opening kickoff out-of-bounds at their own 6-yard line. Crossville then went three-and-out and punting only to their 35. 

Hokes Bluff needed only four plays to reach pay dirt, with running back Bradley Pruett doing the honors from the 1. A bad snap on the PAT attempt kept the Eagle lead at 6-0 with 8:59 left in the opening stanza. 

After another three-and-out and short punt from Crossville, the Eagles again struck quickly, once more requiring only four plays to cover the necessary 32 yards. Pruett again scored, this time from 12 yards out, and after he added the extra point, it was 13-0 with 5:06 left in the first quarter. 

The third lightning strike delayed the game for one hour and forty minutes. When the threatening weather finally departed, so did the Eagle offense for the next 30 minutes.

After two exchanges of punts, a Crossville return man fielded the kick inside the Lion 5 yard line and was tackles inside the 1. From there, however, the Lions drove 99 yards in 16 plays in over nine minutes to move within a touchdown. The drive was highlighted by several catches by sophomore wide receiver Blanton Jones, who finished the game with 124 yards on 11 receptions. 

When Jones hauled in a six-yard aerial from quarterback Ganon Pointer, who was 7 for 7 on the drive, the Eagles lead was trimmed to 13-6 with 40 seconds before halftime.

On the first play after the second-half kickoff, things began to look rough for Hokes Bluff, as Pruett re-injured a hip pointer he had suffered during the opening game of the season. 

One play later, matters went from bad to worse as Jones picked off a stray Eagle pass at the Hokes Bluff 40. 

The Lions failed to move the ball, but on Hokes Bluff’s next possession, Jones recovered an Eagle fumble on the Hokes Bluff 30.  Four plays later, Pointer found freshman tight end Michael Smith from 12 yards out for another Lion touchdown. 

After having had his second quarter PAT attempt blocked, Ronaldo Jimenez drilled the extra point to tie the game at 13-13 with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

With Pruett back in the game periodically the Eagle offense once again showed life in driving from their 22 to the Lions’ 4 as the third quarter ended.

Pruett hooked a field goal attempt wide left on the first play of the fourth, however, and the score remained knotted at 13. 

After Crossville running back Isaias Simpson ripped off three consecutive solid gains, the Eagle defense forced and recovered a fumble to set their offense up at the Lion 30. 

With Pruett now sharing the load with Cam Dowdy and Hayes Evans, Hokes Bluff drove to the 2. Quarterback Landon Johnson kept the drive alive with a key 14-yard pass to Peyton Moore, and when Johnson sneaked over for the 2-yard score, the hosts regained the lead at 20-13 with 7:07 to go. 

On the next Crossville drive, Pointer, who was 17for 28 for the night, forced a pass into double coverage, and Fisher Simmons picked him off at the Eagle 43. Four plays later,

Trey Hutchins ripped off an electrifying 45-yard touchdown jaunt, allowing Hokes Bluff had escaped with a two-touchdown victory. 

Pruett finished with 126 yards on 17 carries, while Hutchins ran three times for 51 yards.

Johnson was 6-for-8 in passing for 40 yards, with Andrew Colley catching three of those passes. 

Simmons led in tackles with 11, followed by Brett Roberts with eight, Dowdy with seven and Korey Stiefel and Carson Eubanks with five each. 

The Eagle will try to move their region record to 3-0 next Friday (Sept. 18) as they travel to Sardis.

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