By MICHELLE GARMON For the Kokomo Tribune
---- — TIPTON — The 1-2 senior combination of Austin Hooker and Nate Hein led Class 2A No.4-ranked Tipton to a 28-7 victory over Class 3A No. 1-ranked Hamilton Heights in Friday night’s season opener.
Tipton’s offensive line of tackles Luke Shively and Brody Blake, guards Isaac Schmitt and Chris Bell and center Bryce Calvin dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing Hooker to run 20 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns and Hein to rush 23 times for 115 yards and a TD. Hooker also completed 6 of 12 passes for 57 yards — all in the first half — and three of those incompletions were on spikes to kill the clock late in the first half. Hein caught two of those passes for 25 yards.
“We did an awesome job up front,” Tipton coach Aaron Tolle said. “But we are supposed to. We have four returning starters and we knew when we the season started that was our strength and we should be able to count on that. Our backs [also] ran great. Our quarterback and backs were much improved over last Friday [in the scrimmage with Western].”
Hamilton Heights coach Mitch Street said: “We are banged up up front. But that’s not an excuse, we got dominated. Their experience, their size, their physicality just was too much. If they stay healthy, they can are going to be a special team. When they are as strong up front and you add Hooker into the mix. They’ve got good balance. A quarterback is hard to defense anyway but when he’s 220 or 225 pounds, he’s hard to bring down. We didn’t respond very well [Friday].”
The Blue Devils took charge from the get go, outgaining the Huskies 107 yards to 1 and building a 7-0 lead.
“Offensively, we challenged our offensive line this week,” Tolle said. “We feel this is the strength of our team as we start more experience there as we do anywhere else. We wanted to put the game in their hands and we made some great runs to put us on top. I thought our defense came out and was stellar on their first three or four possessions. We stopped the run, pressured the passer.”
Tipton went on to lead 15-0 at halftime.
Heights scored its only touchdown of the game on the first possession of the third quarter, cutting Tipton’s lead to 15-7 at the 10:46 mark of the third quarter.
Tipton answered. Jake Devendorf’s 22-yard kickoff return had the Blue Devils starting at their own 38. They needed five plays to score. Hein began the drive with an 18-yard run and Tipton picked up 15 more yards as he was brought down by his face mask resulting in a penalty and a first down at the Husky 29. Four plays later, Hooker rushed 19 yards and carried four or five Huskies into the end zone with him. The kick gave Tipton a 22-7 lead with 8:18 left in the third quarter.
“They regrouped and had that great drive coming out of halftime,” Tolle said. “That’s the second or third time that’s happened to us where the team came out of halftime and scored. It happened to us at West Lafayette last year. We dominated the first half but they returned the second-half kickoff to the 5 and then it’s a ballgame. It’s something we will work on. But we answered and I certainly can’t fault our kids’ effort tonight.”
After stopping the Huskies on downs at the Tipton 32, the Blue Devils used a 12-play drive to basically put the game away. Hooker capped the drive with a 5-yard run, his third TD of the night that wrote the 28-7 finish.
Tipton did not punt all night as its final drive, it ran out the clock. The Blue Devils finished with 386 yards of offense to the Huskies’ 137.
“I think our inexperience showed when we didn’t respond to adversity,” Heights’ Street said. “We did regroup a bit at halftime and put together a nice quick drive to start the second half. But then they do what good, veteran teams do, they responded. Our inexperience showed a lack of ability to overcome that.”
Tipton travels to Elwood next Friday.