EAST CHICAGO | This was not the start to the new season that Hammond had envisioned.
First, Friday night's game at Times' No. 9 East Chicago Central was delayed 25 minutes because coach Eric Schreiber's Wildcats didn't have a bus to bring them.
And when they finally did arrive, the Cardinals' Carlos Fernandez, Martayveus Carter and TreQuan Burnett proceeded to let the air out of their tires in a 36-12 defeat.
"I thought our defense played well. It kept us in the ballgame," East Chicago coach Stacy Adams said. "That was a great goal-line stand from the one-yard line that showed their spirit and determination."
A pivotal point in the game came in the final minutes of the third quarter, with the hosts ahead 22-12, when Hammond quarterback Eric Schreiber was stuffed three times inside the Cardinals' one-yard line.
E.C. Central could've blown it open moments later, but Carter's 81-yard punt return TD was erased by an illegal block.
The Cardinals got another shot and took advantage as Juan Sepulveda sprinted 51 yards with a Schreiber fumble to make it 29-12, and Anthony Hunt put it out of sight with his 10-yard scoring run with 5:27 to go.
Carlos Fernandez was 7-of-15 passing for 127 yards with TD throws of 38, 17 and 25 to Burnett.
"TreQuan is a nice receiver. He's big, fast and a tough matchup when Martayveus lines up on the other side," Adams said.
"It's all talent," Burnett said. "You can't teach talent. Our goal is to dominate in every game.
"I've been working on my routes with my father, making it easier to get open. (Fernandez) has a strong arm. He puts it in there."
Hammond was held to two yards rushing and 74 total.