Josh Smith made a statement on the game’s opening handoff.
Wrapped up at the line of scrimmage, the Hutchinson fullback fought off four tacklers before bolting down the right sideline for the game’s first score. Smith’s physical run set the tone for the Salthawks as Hutchinson scored on its first five possessions, avenging last year’s loss to Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst with a 55-27 win.
“We wanted to come out and hit them hard,” Smith said. “We wanted to land a couple of knockout punches.”
Both teams traded haymakers early as Hutchinson relied on its trademark rushing attack while Rockhurst took to the air.
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After Smith’s run, Rockhurst (1-1) tied the score on a 80-yard touchdown pass from Frank Arbanas to Josh Sykes. Hutchinson retook the lead on a 26-yard run by quarterback Cooper Bell, only to see Rockhurst strike back with a 30-yard pass from Arbanas to Copper Beckett, a 6-foot-7 wide receiver.
At 21-14, the Hutchinson defense buckled down. Hutchinson limited Rockhurst to an average of four plays per possession the rest of the first half, including an interception return for a touchdown by defensive lineman Justin Goetz.
“We didn’t really change much, we just got more pressure,” Goetz said. “We had to get our intensity up. We had to make it easier on our linebackers and DBs in coverage. We couldn’t just let their quarterback have all day to throw.”
While the Rockhurst offense floundered, the Salthawks offense continue to fly high. Sandwiching Goetz’s touchdown were a 18-yard touchdown by Deveon Dinwiddie and a 16-yard run by Bell, giving the Salthawks a 42-14 halftime lead.
The Salthawks rushed for 355 yards in the half, more than they had in the entire game last year against the Hawklets.
It was the offensive line that made the difference, Rockhurst coach Tony Severino said.
“As good as those two running backs are, it was played up front,” Severino said. “Those lines just dominated us up front.”
Bell scored his third touchdown on Hutchinson’s first series of the second half.
“For our kids, I don’t know how it could have been any better than this,” said Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling. “I felt like if we could have eliminated some mistakes in the last game, I think we would have won. Tonight we didn’t have those same mistakes.”