Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

November 16, 2012

Ground warfare: In Verdigris, Hilldale faces another prime running back

HILLDALE — Rest assured, Hilldale’s defense is confident when it comes to containing big-time running backs.

Way back in week two, the Hornets held Fort Gibson’s Jake Gandara under 100 yards for only the second time this season (28 carries, 98 yards).

This week it’s another 2,000-yard rusher in Tanner Smith and Verdigris, and the stakes are bigger. At stake is a berth in the Class 3A quarterfinals when the Hornets, unranked in the final regular season Associated Press poll, and the No. 3 Cardinals bring identical 10-1 marks to the clash at Hornet Field in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

And the Hornets certainly wouldn’t mind the scoreboard outcome being the opposite of the night Gandara led the Tigers to a 21-12 non-district win and with Sequoyah’s forfeiting their game against Hilldale, the Hornets’ only loss of 2012.

“There’s certainly a difference in styles,” Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart said. “Jake’s got an edge on speed and Smith’s got a little bit of power combined with the ability to juke you in the open field. He’s more physical and will run over you and he’s also got a kid in the backfield with him that you don’t want to ignore.”

Smith has 2,178 yards and 31 touchdowns, The other guy, J.D Hanslovan, has three 100-yard games, including 139 against Morris last week, and 947 yards rushing on the season.

Both, but certainly Smith, have the Hornets’ attention this week.

"He’s a well-rounded runner,” said Hilldale nose guard Justin Sanders. “We contained Gandara but they also had a passing element. This offense is geared more toward smashmouth style where they don’t throw much at all.”

It’s made life fun for guys like Cardinals right guard Dalton Inman.

“I’ve been blocking a while for Tanner but both are good. Tanner, he’s just amazing. He gives you a second chance if you miss a block because he keeps going, he can break tackles and outrun people.”

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