HAMMOND | The E.C. Central football team was in a position in Friday's sectional that it hadn't seen most of the season: tied at halftime.
That's when the defense -- the one that had held opponents scoreless for nine quarters -- turned on the offense.
Sparked by a LaRunte Fairley 37-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Cardinals topped Hammond High 28-7 in Class 4A action.
The interception returned for a TD was Fairley's sixth of the season, E.C.C. coach Stacy Adams said. The National Federation football record book indicates that the national record for a single season is four, set in 2007.
"Our defense, we play very, very well," Adams said. "Coach (Ben) Faulkner our defensive coordinator does a great job of getting a good game play week after week, but the key to our defensive success is our scout team offense. They have to go out there and take a beating and they know they're going to take a beating and they come back ready anyway."
On a muddy field, both teams were limited to their offense. The Cardinals (9-1), which have been successful throwing the ball this season, were limited to 89 yards, including a second-half 70-yard score from Carlos Fernandez to Demetris Cousins on 2nd-and-33.
Hammond's Eric Schreiber Jr. completed 4-of-20 passes for 77 yards, a touchdown and the interception. He tied the game in the second quarter on a 15-yard pass to Jesse Woods-Curtis for the first score the Cardinals defense has allowed since Sept. 28 at Lew Wallace.
Woods-Curtis also finished with 89 yards rushing on 20 carries for the Wildcats (6-3) before he was sidelined with injury in the fourth quarter. His replacement at fullback -- Davonte Headd -- had 34 yards on six carries.
The Hammond offense also set up a third-quarter Cardinals score, fumbling a punt on the six yard line and and Martayveus Carter ran it in for a 1-yard score.
When E.C. Central also fumbled a punt, the defense held Hammond without a first down on the ensuing series.
"We didn't play very well in the second half at all," Schreiber said. "We can't make mistakes like we did. We had opportunities and couldn't capitalize on them."
"Defense is always the key and our defense is amazing," Carter said. "We execute every play, every time and if we keep up the hard work, we're going to get a W every time."
Carter led the game with 164 yards, including 122 yards in the first half.