Unable to mount an effective running attack for much of the game, Howard High School spent most of its time on defense Saturday.
In other words, it was Hammond's day.
Hammond slowed the Howard running game, especially in the second half thanks to Keith Chance, and ate up chunks of the clock with its ball-control offense in a 23-6 victory.
Howard (5-3 overall, 2-3 county) had some success on the ground in the first half by using sweeps. Hammond (4-4, 3-2), on top, 9-6, at the half, made some defensivechanges that allowed its defensive backs to come up quicker and string out sweeps to stop the run.
Chance was one big reason Howard struggled on the ground. The senior defensive end-linebacker made 10 unassisted tackles and helped on eight.
"He had an incredible day," said Hammond defensive coordinator Pete Hughes.
Hammond coach Joe Russo said one of the team's goals was to keep the speedy Howard backs from breaking long gains. The Bears achieved that and limited the Lions to just one first-half touchdown.
Hammond kept the ball for most of the second half. Howard opened the half with a short drive, but Hammond then got the ball and kept it for about nine minutes. The Lions stopped the Bears on a fourth-and-goal play at the 3-yard line to end the long drive. A few plays later, however, Isaac Hunter of Hammond recovered a Kirk Wise fumble to give the Bears the ball on the Howard 3-yard line.
Chance ran it in for a touchdown two plays later. Quarterback Brian Magill ran in the two-point conversion for a 17-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Russo said his team's ability to make the long drive took a lot out of Howard, even though the Bears didn't score.
"We came up with big third-down plays," said Russo. "It just wears out the defense."
Magill and Tommy Wallace also helped tire the defense. Magill made five of eight passes for 108 yards and one touchdown and kept the Howard defense off-balance.
Wallace, a freshman running back, made his first start one to remember, gaining 157 yards on 14 carries.
Wallace capped his day when he scored the Bears' final touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard run.
The freshman had spent most of his time this season on the junior varsity. Russo said the coaching staff knew Wallace was good, but hisoutburst was a pleasant shock.
"We knew he was a good little backon the junior varsity," Russo said. "He got some key third down plays for us."
Hammond got on the board first, as Magill found Kelvin Stevens open on a post pattern, and Stevens broke away for a 55-yard touchdown. Howard tied it in the second quarter with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brad Stubbs to Bill Terry.
Howard was hurt when a kickoff return that went for a touchdown was called back because of a clipping penally.
"It was really disheartening," said Howard coach John Quinn. "We hurt ourselves with turnovers."
Hammond then took the lead for good on a 32-yard Chance field goal in the second quarter.