GRAYSON – Ashland’s Blake Hester was midway through a touchdown run when he looked around for East Carter pursuers.
Seeing none, Hester cut right from the Tomcat sideline toward the middle of the field. The resulting 53-yarder was the last of Friday’s three scores, part of a 35-13 win in the Class 3A, District 7 opener.
If you’re looking for a rhyming word to describe what Hester did, “pester” would work. He tormented the Raiders for 209 rushing yards and scoring runs of 13 and 49 yards.
Hester recalled what the coaches said at halftime.
“We had a talk at halftime about driving our feet and playing harder,” Hester said.
A minute or two later, George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers’ 1980s hit, “Bad to the Bone,” blared over the public address system. Hester’s teammate, Keontae Pittman, was — he equally bedeviled the Raiders with 27 carries for 136 yards and two scores.
“I’ve always been more of an outside running guy,” Pittman said. “I’ve never been inside up until last year.”
For the evening, Ashland beleaguered East Carter. The Tomcats ran for 343 yards to go with quarterback Jake Gregg’s 64 and allowed only 163.
Tomcats coach Tony Love, however, told his team a lot needed to be learned.
“I thought we had a great week of prep this past week, but maybe we’ve missed something that we’ll go back and stress to the kids,” Love said.
East Carter coach Tim Champlin, meanwhile, likely wants you to know four things: quarterback Braden Hicks threw for 126 yards and a 9yard touchdown to Micah Adams, defensive lineman Ethan Moore recovered two fumbles and sophomore Bryson Kiser blocked a kick the Raiders converted into Adams’ 3-yard run five plays later.
More than that, East Carter (5-2, 0-1 in district) wanted to make you forget the last four meetings against Ashland — the Raiders were outscored, 229-15, from 2015-18.
“I thought we played really well,” Champlin said. “Little things matter when you play teams like this. We couldn’t take the right step up front offensive line-wise and get a couple guys blocked.”
It wasn’t as if the Raiders couldn’t move the ball against Ashland on Friday — the Raiders converted three third downs on their opening drive, a 13-play, 47-yard excursion. Problem was, the last play, Hicks fumbled, and the Tomcat with the most appropriate name for a middle linebacker — senior Steele Workman — recovered.
“We needed a stop, it was third down,” Workman said. “I saw that ball drop, I’m getting that ball.”
And Ashland (6-1, 1-0) took off.
The yardage: Hester, five carries, 41 yards, and Pittman, two carries for 26.
The Tomcats did not score on a second-quarter sequence (Moore recovered Gregg’s fumble), but it illustrated Ashland’s running game. After Kiser sacked Gregg for a 10-yard loss, Hester ran for 27 and a first down — one of seven third- or fourth-down conversions.