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Jonathan Miano, The Times

GRIFFITH — ‎Griffith is tired of hearing about how it moved over to the Greater South Shore Conference.

The Panthers sent a big message to Class 4A and the rest of the teams in their sectional, as they decimated Hammond 55-0 in their Sectional 17 opener on Friday.

"Yeah, we're tired of that, but you have to just play whoever is in front of you on the schedule," said senior wide receiver Jared Cottrell, who caught four passes for 93 yards. "The GSSC gave us time to work on our technique and gave us more motivation for sectionals."

Winners of nine straight, the Panthers (9-1) ‎racked up 321 yards in the first half and an incredible defensive touchdown.

"You have to give the GSSC respect because they came in and played their butts off," Griffith coach Ben Geffert said. "We've just been blessed with experience coming back and we have a very motivated team that's hopefully peaking at the right time."

Hammond (3-7) recovered a Kadafi Coleman fumble on the Panthers' first possession, but it turned the ball over on downs.

Griffith then went on a 9-play, 59-yard scoring drive capped by a 13-yard TD run by senior QB Fred Winston.

After Hammond went three-and-out on its next drive, the Panthers got a rushing score from senior RB Tayvien Walker from six yards out.

Winston, who finished 8-of-12 for 202 yards, connected on two long TD passes in the first half, including a 39-yarder to Cole Cervantes and a 56-yarder to Jared Cottrell.

However, Hammond did pick Winston off and Jaron Price returned it all the way to the Griffith 8.

Two plays later, Griffith junior defensive back Ernest Johnson picked off Hammond QB Senior Lindsey in the end zone and took it all the way back for a whopping 105-yard interception TD return.

"If the offense makes a mistake, the defense has picked them up," said Geffert.

Hammond committed three turnovers in the game, including one that led to a Walker 19-yard fumble return for the only score in the third quarter.

Coleman, who ran for 81 yards, added a 3-yard TD run at the 11:46 mark to seal the scoring for the Panthers.

Price finished with the interception and 38 rushing yards for Hammond in the loss.

Griffith will face Morton (8-2) next week in the semifinals.