By Brian Lacy
For The Times
The postgame speech by Hanceville coach Danny Miller was simple, and the message to his players was clear. The effort the Bulldogs gave Friday night, and in the week of practice leading up to the game, was good enough to beat West Morgan 40-21, but it was well short of what’s required to win in the playoffs.
Torrey Green and Brontae Harris combined for 174 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Caleb Hurst completed touchdown passes of 31 and 61 yards, as Hanceville took control early and cruised to a 28-0 halftime lead.
Green capped the game’s opening drive with a 29-yard touchdown run just two minutes into the first quarter. Hanceville recovered the ensuing kickoff at the 31-yard line, and on the very next play, Hurst completed a pass to Kody Smith in the back of the end zone. Kolby Smith’s extra-point kick gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead a mere nine seconds after their first score.
“After we jumped out 14-0, I thought we let off the gas a little bit, but we did what we had to do,” Miller said. “We told them all week West Morgan was not the focus. We needed to be focusing on us and preparing for a good game. We knew we could probably not play very well at times and win, but we can’t do that the next week or the next week or the next week.”
While Hanceville’s offense was efficient, if not always crisp, the defense was dominant. In the first half, West Morgan tried and failed four times to convert on fourth down. Blake Purifoy busted into the backfield twice and Charles Tatro once to record tackles for a loss on fourth down. Purifoy and Tatro each recovered a fumble during the game as well.
“I thought our defense played really, really well, especially in the first half,” Miller said.
Purifoy was rewarded after his fumble recovery when he lined up at fullback on the ensuing drive and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, giving the Bulldogs a 34-0 lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter.
Green finished with 97 yards on seven carries, while Harris ran the ball 11 times for 77 yards. Hurst completed just two passes, but both resulted in touchdowns, including a 61-yarder to Dant’e Reese late in the second quarter.
West Morgan quarterback R.J. Young led the Rebels with 64 yards rushing on 12 carries and completed 4 of 9 passes for 42 yards and one touchdown. Running back Anthony Morgan gained 50 yards on 11 carries and scored once.
Hanceville has been bounced from the playoffs in the first round each of the past two seasons. Miller said the Bulldogs have plenty they need to work next week to avoid a similar outcome when they host Glencoe.
“We can’t try to win it on Friday night,” Miller said. “We’ve got to try to win it on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If we can get our kids to buy into that, then we’ve got a chance next week. It’s a lot like two years ago when we drew Elkmont when we were 10-0. I’m not sure how serious we took Elkmont. Depending on what Glencoe did tonight, they could be 6-4, but they’re going to be a good 6-4 or 7-3 team.
“We need to get over that hump and see what happens after that. We need to focus everything we can on getting past that first round, but we know it’s going to be tough.”