Quar­ter­backs piv­otal to suc­cess of fi­nal­ists

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Ja­son Avery News-Times Staff

Junc­tion City and Hazen both have rid­den sturdy ground games to reach the 2A state fi­nals, av­er­ag­ing 600 yards per game com­bined be­tween them.

And while the bat­tle in the trenches will cer­tainly go a long way to­wards de­ter­min­ing the 2A state cham­pion Fri­day night in Lit­tle Rock, the arms of Junc­tion City quar­ter­back Brady Hutch­e­son and Hazen quar­ter­back Blayne Toll could also fac­tor in.

A ju­nior, Hutch­e­son could sur­pass 1,000 yards pass­ing for the sea­son with 47 yards against the Hor­nets.

Hutch­e­son has been out­stand­ing in the play­offs, com­plet­ing 20 of his 28 passes for 550 yards with six touch­downs and just one in­ter­cep­tion.

For Junc­tion City coach Steven Jones, Hutch­e­son has emerged as a big-play weapon for his of­fense.

“He con­tin­ues to get more com­fort­able each week,” Jones said. “He’s spear­headed our of­fense. He’s been a big rea­son why they haven’t been able to load up and stop Dhante (Gib­son).”

Although he doesn’t run the ball very much, Hutch­e­son did pick up 24 yards on eight car­ries in last week’s semi­fi­nal win at Fore­man.

“You don’t re­ally see it on the score­sheet, but he’s hav­ing two or three car­ries a game that are big car­ries to get first downs and things like that,” Jones said. “He’s done a re­ally good job of throw­ing the foot­ball for us lately, but he’s also been ef­fi­cient in the run game.”

Just be­fore half­time, Hutch­e­son scored to push the Dragons’ lead to 19-7. That cou­pled with Jak­iron Cook’s touch­down early in the third quar­ter helped the Dragons pull away from the Ga­tors.

“He has that war­rior

men­tal­ity,” Jones said.

“What­ever we ask him to do, he’s go­ing to do it. He’s go­ing to give it his all. We saw that in the quar­ter­back sneak that he scored on right be­fore the half at Fore­man.

“They had ev­ery­thing that they wanted. They re­ally had him stopped in the back­field, but he just de­cided that he wasn’t go­ing to be tack­led. He was go­ing to get into the end zone, and he found a way in there.

“That’s the way he’s played since we put him at quar­ter­back.”

Hazen coach Joe Be­san­con has been im­pressed with the way Hutch­e­son has guided the Dragons in the post­sea­son.

“From what I’ve seen on film, he does a real good job of man­ag­ing the team,” Be­san­con said.

“They do a real good job of putting him in sit­u­a­tions where he’s suc­cess­ful.

“They throw a lot of those quick bub­bles and quick hitch passes to the out­side.

“He puts the foot­ball right where it needs to be so his team­mates can be suc­cess­ful once they get it in their hands.”

Hutch­e­son’s fa­vorite tar­get dur­ing the play­offs has been se­nior Kevon­tae Haynes, who could reach 1,000 yards this sea­son with 99 yards against the Hor­nets.

Although Haynes has only 34 catches this sea­son, he has shown his abil­ity to make big plays by av­er­ag­ing 26.5 yards per catch with 10 touch­downs.

“Kevon­tae has made big plays down the stretch that kept drives alive,” Jones said.

“I think he can be a big fac­tor Fri­day night. He’s been a leader for us, and an­other one that has re­ally led by ex­am­ple.

“He’s qui­etly re­ally had a good sea­son on the de­fen­sive side of the ball, but we’ve seen some ex­plo­sion out of him on of­fense, so I think that he can be the X-fac­tor in the game.

“I think that when they load up to stop it, we’ve got a guy out there that’s a threat and can go score, and we have to take ad­van­tage of that and get him the ball at the right time and use him as much as we can.”

While Hutch­e­son is cer­tainly more of a pass­ing quar­ter­back than a run­ning quar­ter­back, the op­po­site is true of Toll.

A ju­nior, Toll is listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds and is also a stal­wart on the de­fen­sive line for Hazen.

He has rushed for over 700 yards with eight touch­downs, but also has thrown for 458 yards and five scores.

“He is go­ing to play tight end in col­lege,” Jones said of Toll. “They’ll run some quar­ter­back de­sign runs with him. They’ll run their counter trey and just have those backs go in the op­po­site way and Toll will keep it.

“We’ve just got to be very dis­ci­plined in our reads and not let the wrong thing take us out of the pic­ture.

“We’ve got to read our keys and meet them punch for punch right there and keep ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing at the line of scrim­mage.”

Although the Hor­nets may not throw the ball as much as the Dragons do, ju­nior Rasheed Mills will be a re­ceiver the Dragons will have to keep an eye on.

There are also times where Toll may not al­ways line up at quar­ter­back.

Be­san­con said he’s used him at full­back and tight end if nec­es­sary with se­nior Ja­cob Weems play­ing at quar­ter­back when the switch has been made.

“It’s good,” Be­san­con said of his quar­ter­back’s ver­sa­til­ity. “If we’re hav­ing trou­ble block­ing across the front try­ing to block some Junc­tion’s big­ger guys, I al­ways have that where I can take the tight end that I have in there and move him to quar­ter­back and take Blayne and move him to tight end to help us with the run game or with block­ing schemes. He’s a big power guy, and we use him in short yardage.

“I can line him up just about any­where I want to, and he can help us at all three of those po­si­tions.”

Ter­rance Arm­stard/News-Times

Open field: Junc­tion City wide re­ceiver Kevon­tae Haynes looks for a block as he tries to make his way down the field dur­ing the Dragons' con­test against Des Arc in the 2A quar­ter­fi­nals last month in Junc­tion City. The Dragons take on Hazen Fri­day night at 7 p.m. at War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Lit­tle Rock for the 2A state crown.

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