Hunter Utley

Quarterback Hunter Utley throws to a teammate at the game. Last night, Utley completed 9 out of 14 attempted passes for a total of 225 yards and six touchdowns. Utley also had 23 yards rushing against Ballard Memorial.

MURRAY  District dominance. That’s what was expected and the Tigers delivered against Ballard Memorial. 

The Tigers came into the game ready to go from the very beginning. Jorden Duffy scored a touchdown on the first drive, and once the duo of quarterback Hunter Utley and wide receiver Tommy Waldrop got together, the Bombers didn’t stand a chance. The Tigers eventually pulled ahead 54-6. 

“Utley and I have been playing football together since little league,” Waldrop said. “We’ve gotten pretty good chemistry, and that results in big plays.”

The plays just seemed to get bigger and bigger Friday night. At the end of the first quarter, Utley shook off the Bomber defense and found Waldrop in the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown. The duo increased the distance on each of their scoring plays and the last was an 81-yard touchdown reception. 

Before the night was over, Waldrop had 168 yards and four touchdowns. Utley had 225 yards and six touchdowns. Toss in Charvelle McCallister’s 50 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and the game was over.

Head coach for the Tigers, Keith Hodge, said, “We’re in the exact position we want to be in right now. Being 2-0 in district play is a goal this time of year, and I’m proud of the guys for getting us to this point.”

The teams’ defense also stepped it up big time last night. Hodge said tackling and pursuit looked better than it did against Fort Campbell last week. It wasn’t until the final seconds of the game that Bomber Logan Hargrove was able to save his team from a shutout by running three yards for a touchdown.

Linebacker LT Armstrong said, “Fort Campbell had some athletes just like Ballard did, but this week we made sure to tackle correctly. That was something we emphasized during this whole last week of practice. We did tackling drills almost every single day. I think that even though we came into the game knowing the outcome before we started, we still executed.”

Senior Damon Boyd led the Tigers with eight tackles and two assists against the Bombers.

Hodge is taking a lot of pride in the fact that the defense is finding ways to put teams in a lot of third-down situations.

However, Murray High had a couple of little errors that won’t slide against their next two district opponents.

For example, the Tiger defense allowed Utley to be sacked by the Bombers. That’s the type of mistake that just won’t fly with teams like Caldwell County and Mayfield. 

“There was a miscommunication on the perimeter,” Hodge said. “Sacks happen, but we prefer them to be because the defense made a heck of a play, not because we’re not talking, but I know we can fix that, and we’ll work on it.”

While the teams’ communication has improved, it’s still not where it needs to be. 

“I could hear everyone out there making calls on both sides of the ball which is great, but we still had one or two breakdowns from not being on the same page,” Hodge said. 

Another trip-up from the Tigers had to do with the usually-consistent senior kicker Noah Merriss. Prior to last night, Merriss had yet to miss a single extra-point kick this season, but Merriss missed two in the game against the Bombers.

“It’s very unlike him, so when it happens, it’s a little bit of a shock,” Hodge said. “The great thing about him is he’ll work so hard to make up for it.”

Despite these couple of errors, the Tigers played a heck of a game, especially once you consider that last night was the first game they played without their leading scorer, wide receiver Jaiden Jackson, who is currently recovering from injury. 

“We did a ton of good things,” Hodge said. “Injuries can’t be an excuse. People have to step up and take pride. Several did a great job of that tonight.”

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