HAMMOND | It might have been senior night at Fort Pioneer, but the Hammond High Wildcats played the role of spoiler as they rolled to a 40-7 victory over Clark in the final game of the regular season.
Despite what the final score indicates, success was not always so definite for the Wildcats. After the first few drives for both squads stalled out short of scores, the Pioneers defense was first to strike as they forced a fumble and senior Antoine Mayfield returned it 53 yards to take a 7-0 lead at 2:01 in the first.
Playing from behind early, Hammond began to find their offensive flow midway through the first and did not look back. On their answering drive, Wildcats halfback Joe Jackson Jr. received a handoff and took the ball 53 yards to knot it up 7-7 with 1:02 left in the first quarter. Answering with a counter of their own, the Wildcats then drove the field as Keirahn Richard pulled the team ahead 14-7 with a five-yard run.
This set the tone for the rest of the game as a deep and durable Wildcat offense managed to get five different ball carriers into the end zone. In the end, it was the penalties and the inability to contain the run that cost the Pioneers dearly as they fell to the Wildcats 40-7.
The scene on the field for the visiting Wildcats after the game was one of elation. A team that has now won two consecutive conference titles, the Wildcats' celebration will be short as they look ahead to a tough East Chicago Central matchup in the opening round of sectionals.
“We have got to come out from the very first play and be ready to play the entire game,” said Hammond Coach Eric Schreiber. “That is something that we have really not done all year, is play all four quarters.”
When asked what they need to do different the second time around against E.C., Schreiber’s game plan is simple: “We have got to protect the ball this time around and put it in the end zone.”