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Hilltoppers whip Hardin Valley for first win of season

Douglas Fritz • Sep 6, 2019 at 11:23 PM

KNOXVILLE — Hill, happy and Friday night can once again fit neatly into the same sentence.

Science Hill exploded out of its two-game blues, crushing Hardin Valley in a 52-14 mercy-rule whipping on the Hawks’ home field.

It was the Region 1-6A football opener for both teams, and Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter said the team’s first win of the season was nice.

“Good things were happening,” said Carter. “I don’t know exactly what it was. We finally jelled a little bit. We made some big plays when we had to.”

CONNOR STEPS UP

Science Hill quarterback Connor Batchelder had his most level performance of the season. He finished 18 of 27 passing for 340 yards with four touchdowns.

“I just started to trust in my teammates more,” said Batchelder. “As we got the ball rolling, we all got a little more comfortable and just did what we do in practice.”

CHRIS THOMAS

It was another big night at the office for the Hilltoppers’ senior running back. Thomas had 21 carries for 134 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught four balls for 95 yards, including an electrifying 44-yard catch and run for a score in the third quarter.

THE BIGGEST PLAY?

After Science Hill took a 3-0 lead, Hardin Valley got a 54-yard touchdown run from speedster Kelton Gunn. Given the way the season had gone to that point, Science Hill’s confidence might have been shaken.

But Solomon Dunn helped things get turned around quickly. Batchelder appeared to slightly overthrow him on a deep ball, but Dunn never gave up on it and made a diving catch in the end zone for a 10-6 Science Hill lead.

“God gave me long arms, so I used them,” said Dunn with a smile. “I put them out there and the ball fell in them.”

Carter said, “That play kind of turned things around and gave us some momentum. When somebody steps up and makes something, it kind of empowers the other guys, too.”

Dunn finished four catches for 99 yards and three of them were difficult receptions.

“That’s just pure concentration and working on it,” said Dunn. “Me and Connor working every day after practice, jump balls, hard passes.”

SUPERLATIVES

Braden Anderson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-6 and Thomas closed out the first-half scoring with a 3-yard run.

Hardin Valley had a penalty-supported drive deep into Science Hill territory just before halftime, but the Hilltoppers turned the Hawks away on downs.

Andrew Kanady also caught a 31-yard scoring pass for the Hilltoppers. Cole Torbett had five catches for 68 yards.

The kicking game was sharp with Kade Hensley nailing all seven of his extra-point attempts along with a 28-yard field goal.

It was a victorious return for Science Hill assistant coach Wes Jones, who spent 10 seasons as the Hawks’ head coach prior to this year.

DEFENSE SHINES

The Hilltoppers gave up 186 yards on 21 carries to Gunn, but that was pretty much it as Hardin Valley managed only 39 other yards on offense.

Science Hill picked off three passes — two by Joshua Santiago and one by Nicholas Copenhaver. Alec Hillman and Kain Rogers recorded sacks.

“Defensively we had some guys step up and make good plays,” said Carter, whose team won despite getting flagged for 177 yards worth of penalties. “But we’ve got a lot of learning to do. We made a lot of mistakes. But it’s good to be on this side of it, and hopefully we can move with some momentum from here.”

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