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Hamada powers Cavemen past EP

Hamada powers Cavemen past EP


-- At 5-foot-7, Brandon Hamada may be short in stature, but on Friday night he was a giant when the final gun sounded at Mel Ingram Field.

Hamada rushed for 150 yards and scored two touchdowns behind a punishing offensive line to lead Grants Pass to a 24-14 Southern Oregon Conference football victory over Eagle Point.

The Cavemen, staving off a late Eagles rally, put their ship back on course after last week's 35-7 loss to Roseburg.

The victory improved the Cavemen to 3-1 in SOC play, while the Eagles fell to 2-2.

We wanted to regain our momentum in the standings, said Hamada. It wasn't the prettiest win, but I'm not complaining.

In the first half, Grants Pass appeared ready to run away and hide.

Jesse Lara returned the game's opening kick 55 yards, and nine plays later Hamada bolted over the goal line from 5 yards out with the contest's first score.

Three minutes later, after Eagle Point punter Kirk Roberts shanked a kick, the Cavers wasted no time finding their way into the end zone again.

On its first play of the drive, Grants Pass quarterback Nathen Olson connected with wide receiver Gabe Barbee for 37 yards to the Eagle Point 1-yard line. The very next play, Hamada plunged through a gaping hole on the right side of the line for a touchdown. Jay Slack's second PAT made it 14-0.

They (Grants Pass) played well and we didn't, said Eagle Point coach Mike Johnston. We didn't have a lot of energy early and seemed flat on both sides of the ball.

Johnston's comments seemed very apropos, considering the Cavemen defense limited the Eagles to only 47 total yards in the first half.

I was really pleased with our defense, said Grants Pass coach Tom Blanchard. I was never worried all night that Eagle Point could put together a big drive.

Grants Pass stretched its lead to 21-0 in the second quarter after Barbee hauled in Olson's 15-yard scoring toss which culminated a six-play 74 yard drive.

We want to score as fast as we can, but eating the clock works for us too

said Hamada, who had 93-yards rushing in the first half. We knew our defense would stop them if we ran the ball.

But halftime proved to be a detriment more than a help to the Cavemen, whose offense sputtered miserably in the third quarter.

After Grants Pass linebacker Matt Major intercepted a Nick Rouhier pass and returned it to the Eagle Point 10-yard-line, the Cavemen had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Slack for a 24-0 lead.

With the Grants Pass offense taking a sabbatical from action in the third quarter, the Eagles' offense wasn't setting the world on fire. Neither team collected a first down in the third quarter, as Eagle Point gained just six total yards in the period, while Grants Pass turned in a robust 11 total yards in the period.

With the Eagle Point offense still in a funk, the defense took matters into its own hands, when linebacker Nick Newmann intercepted an Olson pass and scampered 65 yards for a touchdown.

We always preach to keep playing, said Johnston. You just never know what can happen. Nick's interception was a huge spark for us.

The spark ignited a fire under the Eagles' offense and defense. Facing a punting situation, Johnston called for a fake punt and Roberts executed it perfectly, gaining 22 yards and a critical first down.

Two plays later Rouhier found Andy Jacoby open for a 27-yard touchdown pass and the lead was cut to 24-14.

I felt like we lost our confidence and let them off the hook, said Blanchard.

I got a little irritated on the sideline and I think the kids saw that and started to feel the same way.

The Cavemen felt even more irritated on the ensuing kickoff, when the Eagles recovered an onsides kick to keep the momentum squarely in their favor.

But a costly holding penalty cost the Eagles dearly when Roberts hauled in an apparent first down completion from Rouhier inside the Grants Pass 25-yard-line.

The miscue moved Eagle Point out of scoring range and facing a fourth-down and 24, the Grants Pass defense sacked Rouhier for a 15-yard loss.

The penalty really limited what we could do offensively, said Johnston.

We didn't have many choices after that.

The rest was left to Hamada, who carried the ball five of the last six plays behind his beefy line for 37-yards and eat the remaining time on the clock.

Those guys really paved the way for me tonight, said Hamada, who carried the ball 31 times on the night. They really make my job a lot easier. Last week there were black jersey's everywhere I looked, but tonight there were huge holes.

The victory also was a relief for Blanchard, whose team sits in great shape in the conference playoff picture with only games against Crater next Friday, and a non-league tilt with Bend before finishing the season with games at Spiegelberg Stadium against North and South Medford.

This was a huge win for us, said Blanchard. `We're sitting fine right now, we just have to keep taking care of business.