By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
Chandler Puckett gave District 3A-7 a strong reminder on Friday night:
He can throw the ball effectively.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior showed off his arm by completing nine of 15 passes for 153 yards and five touchdowns — all in the first half — propelling the Hornets to a 49-7 rom over the Locust Grove Pirates at Hornet Field.
Puckett added an 18-yard touchdown scamper with 9:12 left in the third quarter en route to gaining 40 yards on four carries. But it was his arm that impressed Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart and Locust Grove coach Matt Hennesy.
“For the past three weeks, we’ve run the ball but you’ve got to be able to do both,” Kirkhart said. “You’re going to face teams that will load the box and you’ve got to throw it. We probably threw it as well as we have all year.
“Chandler did a good job. He also stood in the pocket and the guys up front protected well.”
Understandably, Hennesy had his team prepared to stop the run. The Hornets gained 406 yards rushing last week against Lincoln Christian. The former Muskogee High coach’s squad “limited” Hilldale to almost half of that total — 213.
“They came back and beat us with the bootleg and play-action pass,” he said. “The thing they do well is they’ll do whatever it takes to win. The quarterback played a great game. He had a bunch of dropped balls and who knows how many yards he would’ve had if they didn’t have that.”
On the passes that weren’t dropped, Josh Giem had two touchdown catches of 20 and 14 yards, while Bradley Campbell grabbed TD throws of 26 and 32 yards. The other TD reception was 13 yards to Eli Lawley.
For the game, Campbell grabbed four passes for 80 yards.
Hilldale romped to a 35-0 halftime lead. Puckett said that the Pirates’ plan of loading the box helped open the passing lanes.
“They put seven or eight players (in the box) on almost every play,” Puckett said. “I threw some good passes here and there throughout the year, but (tonight) I showed what I can do with my arm and not just my leg. I got a lot of confidence throwing the ball.”
Even Puckett’s backup, Mitchell Croftcheck, got into the act. He fired a 40-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Olson with 4:20 left in the third quarter for the Hornets’ other touchdown.
Notching their third straight game of scoring 40 points or more, the Hornets improved to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in district. Hennesy, in his first year at Locust Grove, saw his team drop to 4-3 and 1-3.
By the time the Hornets increased their lead to 49-0, Kirkhart began clearing his bench and playing the substitutes.
Wyatt O’Neal had 34 yards rushing on nine carries and Hunter Woods had 22 yards on six totes. Croftcheck completed all three of his pass attempts for 50 yards.
The Pirates’ only score was the final tally of the contest, a one-yard run by Cameron McIntyre with 10:22 left in the game. He finished with 34 yards on 13 carries.
Hilldale goes to Park Hill next Thursday to face Keys. The Cougars beat Lincoln Christian 33-13 on Friday.
HILLDALE 49, LOCUST GROVE 7
L. Grove 0 0 0 7—7
Hilldale 7 28 14 0—49
Hilldale — Josh Giem 20 from Chandler Puckett (Puckett kick), 7:49.
Hilldale — Giem 14 pass from Puckett (Puckett kick), 11:10
Hilldale — Eli Lawley 13 pass from Puckett (kick failed), 6:40
Hilldale — Bradley Campbell 26 pass from Puckett (Puckett run), 4:53
Hilldale — Campbell 32 pass from Puckett (Puckett kick), 1:53.
Hilldale — Puckett 18 run (Puckett kick), 9:12
Hilldale — Hunter Olson 40 pass from Mitchell Croftcheck (Puckett kick), 4:20
L. Grove — Cameron McIntyre 1 run (Mikel Baker kick), 10:22
L. Grove Hilldale
First Downs 7 18
Rushes-Yards 25-72 40-213
Passing Yards 56 203
Passes (C-A-I) 5-19-0 12-18-0
Punts-Average 7-28.1 2-38.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-55 4-35
Rushing: L. Grove, McIntyre 13-34. Hilldale, Jamaul Cullom 14-85, Chandler Puckett 4-40, Wyatt O’Neal 6-34, Josh Giem 4-28, Hunter Woods 9-22.
Passing: L. Grove, Colton Witt 3-10-0—39. Mason Fine 2-9-0—17.
Receiving: L.Grove, Cameron McIntyre 3-20. Hilldale, Bradley Campbell 4-80, Hunter Olson 2-41.Josh Giem 2-34