ROGERSVILLE – If nothing else, at least Hollister High School football coach Rich Adkins knows his words carry some weight with his players.
Before the opening kickoff Friday night, he told the Tigers they needed to accomplish a couple of things as they took on Logan-Rogersville.
“I told them before the game that we needed a defensive score and we needed a special teams score,” Adkins said.
His players listened – and delivered.
Hollister’s defense smothered Adam Waters in the end zone for a safety on the Wildcats’ second offensive possession, and Konner Hatfield returned a third-quarter kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
Those were two of the many highlights for the Tigers in a 30-20 victory that was not as close as final score indicated.
“If I could just call that all the time, we might win a lot more games,” Adkins said with a laugh.
“We hadn’t had any of those all year. That’s what we needed, those kinds of things get us going.”
The third big highlight came on the opening possession of the second half, after Hollister took a 16-0 lead into the half.
The Tigers faced a fourth-and-3 play from the Logan-Rogersville 33-yard line, on the seventh play of the drive. Hollister came out in a wildcat formation, with Hatfield taking the snap in the shotgun.
Hatfield rolled to his left, then floated a pass that dropped perfectly into the arms of running back Kelby Gard, who was all alone, streaking down the sideline.
That made it a 23-0 Hollister lead halfway through the third quarter and effectively put the game away.
It was a play the team has been working on “since Day One,” Hatfield said.
“I didn’t know if they were going to come and rush me, and I would have to run,” the senior receiver continued. “But everything worked out in our favor.
“It’s a great feeling.”
Adkins said it was a play Hatfield has been lobbying for all season, both in practice and during games.
“We’ve had in there all year long, and every week, he’s on the sidelines, bugging me to ‘call it, call it, call it.’ “ Adkins said. “It’s on our wristband, and he did that tonight, so I said, ‘All right, let’s do it.’
“Konner is a playmaker and he’s a lot of fun to watch. We want to get him the ball – we can’t always get him the ball through the air, but if we can get him the ball running it a little bit, that’s what we’ll do.”
Hatfield finished with 15 rushing yards on two carries, caught two passes for 17 yards and completed his one pass for 33 yards, in addition to the momentum-shifting 90-yard kickoff return for a score.
A key for the Tigers was a fast start.
Hollister forced a Logan-Rogersville punt on the opening possession, then went on a nine-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a 3-yard run by Gard.
The Tigers tacked on the safety on the next possession, then ripped off an 11-play, 51-yard drive that Gard ended with another 3-yard touchdown, for a 16-0 lead.
“That’s what talked about, having a fast start,” Adkins said. “We’ve had some slow starts, but we wanted to come out and jump on these guys. We know they had some guys banged up, so we thought if we could get on them, we could feel pretty good about playing with a lead. That’s what our guys did.
“Our offensive line and running backs came out hard in that first half, and it was a fun thing to watch.”
Gard finished with 115 rushing yards on 21 carries, scoring two TD runs and adding the TD pass from Hatfield. The Tigers’ passing game – which has had its struggles this season – added 110 yards. Layton Morgan completed 4-of-6 passes for 77 yards.
Next up is a Senior Night game against Mt. Vernon, the fourth-ranked team in the state in Class 3 going into Week 8 action. The Mountaineers stayed unbeaten with a 20-14 victory over Springfield Catholic on Friday.
“We’re not going to back down from them, we know they are a great team, and we’re going to try to keep getting better,” Adkins said. “We feel like our district is kind of laid out in front of us.
“We’re going to try to improve and not worry so much about the win-loss record, just try to get better.”