Hornets earn first win under Hartman regime
Hornet Head Coach Clint Hartman, a 1993 graduate of East Central, celebrates his first win with his players.
John Jay 14
East Central 21
EAST CENTRAL -- Hornet Head Coach Clint Hartman said before the season that fans may not want to get out of their seats for popcorn while the game is under way -- and he wasn’t kidding. East Central and John Jay kept fans from both sides on the edge of their seats, but in the end, it was the Hornets ending the night with a 21-14 victory.
The visiting Mustangs provided the first thrill of the night, though, as they lined up for the opening kickoff. The Hornets were caught off guard as Jay successfully completed an onside kick, and the Mustangs started with the ball at midfield. Jay was able to move the ball and got deep into Hornet territory, but the East Central defense made the plays when it had to and held the Mustangs at bay.
East Central’s no-huddle spread offense took the field and made an immediate impression. The first play from scrimmage was a running play for moderate yardage, but as the ball was spotted and the referee whistled for the play clock to start, the Hornets immediately snapped the ball. While the Mustang defense was clearly caught off guard and may have even anticipated some sort of false-start penalty, Wanya Ward took off down the sideline and happily accepted an easy toss from quarterback Jeremy Jones. Ward never had anyone within 30 yards of him as he streaked down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown. The point-after kick was off the mark, but the Hornets celebrated the early lead, 6-0.
The play remained exciting throughout the first half. East Central drove well, only to come up short on several occasions. The Mustang offense also looked good much of the time, as Jay moved the ball into Hornet territory with relative ease. Neither team was able to find the end zone, though, and halftime came along with the score still 6-0.
Midway through the third quarter, the Hornets drove down inside the Mustang red zone, and Jones made a great scramble over the goal line to up the East Central lead. Running back Johnathan Jackson beat the defenders to the corner as he ran in the 2-point conversion, and the lead was 14-0 with 6:33 to play in the third.
With the momentum clearly on their side, the Hornets gave the Mustangs a bit of their own medicine, as East Central successfully recovered an onside kick. A Jay penalty moved the Hornets a big closer, and things were looking good for the Black and Gold.
Unfortunately, at about the 6-minute mark, and with backup personnel in the game, the ball came loose on a botched exchange, and ended up in the hands of Jay’s Genaro Coleman, who was happy to race 65 yards for a Mustang touchdown. Then, on the Hornets’ next offensive possession, backup quarterback Joseph Gutierrez was tackled in the backfield, and the ball popped loose. Luis Trujillo of John Jay picked up the ball and rumbled 60 yards for the Mustangs’ second defensive touchdown of the quarter, tying the game at 14-all.
Things settled back down throughout the remainder of the third and into the fourth, and it looked similar to the second quarter of play. Both teams were able to move the ball but neither could find the end zone.
In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, however, running back Javion Polk put together a pair of big runs up the middle of the field, capping off a three-play drive with a 30-yard run to the end zone. Andrew Hernandez kicked the extra point, and the Hornets went back on top, 21-14.
The Mustang offense showed it could move the ball all night, and the Hornet defense knew it had to come up with one final stop. Jay drove down inside the Hornet 30 with a deep passing play, but got nowhere on four straight passing plays. The Hornet defense handed the ball back to the offense with less than a minute remaining on the clock, and Jay was out of timeouts with no ability to stop play. Jones took a single snap and a knee, and Hornet Nation celebrated a thrilling 21-14 victory.
For Hartman, an East Central graduate, it was a moment he will never forget, and he was sure to tell his players after the game.
“I love y’all,” he said to them in a huddle after the game.
Hartman’s spread offense got high marks in its initial debut. Jones completed 10 of 14 passing attempts for 205 yards and a touchdown. Ward was the Hornets’ leading receiver on the night with three catches for 153 yards, while Jackson caught three passes for 19 yards and Dallas Polasek caught a pass for 20. Polk caught a pass for 13 yards, and Roy Mora had another for 5 paces.
Polk led the ground game with 145 yards on 21 carries, and Jackson added 112 on 12 touches. Jones ran eight times for 27 yards.
The Hornets will travel to Farris Stadium this Friday, Sept. 6, to take on the Marshall Rams. Marshall is coming off a 1-point loss to Lee last Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.