Hammond Bears coach Joe Russo describes sophomore running back Tim Spruill as "instant offense."
Yesterday Spruill lived up to that description by producing three big-yardage plays that led the Bears to a 20-0 victory over the Centennial Eagles before a large Hammond homecoming crowd.
Spruill set up Hammond's first touchdown on the game's opening series when he ran 44 yards off-tackle to Centennial's 19.
He later scored from six yards out with 10:01 left in the first quarter. The Bears nursed that 7-0 lead until halftime.
In the third quarter, however, Spruill broke the game open by throwing a 52-yard pass down the right sideline to Jake Motley. It came on first down after a Centennial punt, and it was Spruill's only play at quarterback. Hammond (6-2, 4-1) uses him at quarterback only in its shotgun formation.
"Earlier this season we used that formation to come from behind against Wilde Lake and Spruill played quarterback," Russo said.
For Centennial (3-5, 1-4), which after the first touchdown had knocked heads pretty evenly with the Bears, it was a frustrating error that allowed the touchdown.
"We been making the same kind of mental mistakes defensively all season," Centennial coach Ed Holshue said. "We were in a zone pass defense, but our cornerback thought we were playing man-for-man so we had no deep coverage on that side."
It was Spruill's first touchdown pass this season.
After Centennial quarterback Brian Dowell threw three incomplete passes on the Eagles' next series, Spruill went to work again. He returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown down the right side.
"I just followed John White," Spruill said. "I'm just trying to step up and contribute whatever I can to the team. All the credit should go to the linemen. Without them, I couldn't have done anything."
The Bears, hampered by 32 turnovers this season, did not make a turnover yesterday. But they were called for nine penalties, four of them major.
"Penalties hurt us," Russo said. "We're averaging only four per game."
Hammond's defense, the heart of the team, recorded its second straight shutout and fourth of the season. And Centennial had scored three touchdowns in three of its previous four games.
Hammond's Jimmy Jackson and Isaac Hunter each made 15 tackles. Jackson had nine unassisted tackles. Justin Lavis made nine tackles and Jim Weston had 10. Five of Weston's tackles were behind the line of scrimmage.
Don Culbreth was again impressive as the power back in Centennial's power-I. He gained 105 yards on 29 carries, but four times was tackled behind the line.
bTC "Their defensive line was quick and got through the gaps," Holshue said. "On the punt return our defensive man again ran straight to the return man instead of going outside and looping back as he had been told to do after an earlier return."
Hammond must win its final two games against Glenelg and Oakland Mills to make the playoffs and win its first county championship.
"We're getting better every game," Russo said.