Preview: Hamilton at West Clermont

Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum face off in Friday’s Blitz 5 Tour Game of the Week. West Clermont hosts Hamilton to open the 2019 campaign. The home team Wolves have 32 voids to fill from a senior class that graduated back in May. The Big Blue returns two players that were All-District and five that were Second Team All-GMC selection in 2018.

West Clermont head coach Nick Ayers will have many teachable moments during and after the game. That should not be the case for new Hamilton head coach Nate Mahon, who returns to his alma mater seeking to embed a winning culture. There are eight starters back on offense and seven on defense for the Big Blue.

The winner gets a non-conference boost and a leg up in the Division I, Region 4 computer rankings. Not to mention a huge confidence builder moving forward.

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Hamilton backfield is very athletic. They are led by junior RB Keyshawn Stephens, a Second Team All-Southwest District performer a year ago. He ran for 1,272 yards with 12 rushing and three passing touchdowns. Sophomore RB Kaleb Johnson showed that the Friday night lights weren’t too big for him as a freshman, running for 631 yards and three scores. Paving the way for them up front are seniors OL Ryan Rumpke, OL Jacob Abney, OL Jayden Evans and OL Dustin Brock. Johnson, Rumpke and Abney were Second Team All-GMC selections last fall.

The heart and soul of the Big Blue defense is LB Luke Mattia. He was a Second Team All-Southwest District selection as a junior after recording 85 total tackles and two fumble recoveries. Joining Mattia in the middle of the field is junior LB Jordan Jones, who had a breakout campaign with 48 total tackles and five-and-a-half sacks in 2018. Up front, senior DL Nathan Pratt anchors the line. Pratt and Jones were Second Team All-GMC selections a year ago. A healthy DB Khaliyal Sowell is back after being injured in Week 3 last season. The senior moves from quarterback into the secondary. Sowell has an offer from Indiana.

There are many unknowns for West Clermont, including QB Donte Turner Jr, who moves under center after playing safety as a junior. Senior DB Devon Boykin and DB Gage Bullock will hold down the secondary. Bullock had three interceptions, including two pick sixes as a sophomore. Special teams should be a strength for the Wolves. The kicking game features P Trevor Click, who averaged 36.4 yards per punt earning him First Team All-ECC honors as a junior. Senior K Cameron Null has 72 career points, including nine field goals in his career.

TEAM TRENDS: It has been nine years since Hamilton finished the season with winning record (7-4 in 2010). In that same span, the Big Blue has given up an average of 32.1 points per game.

This is the third season of football for the West Clermont program. In the Wolves last 17 games, nine have been decided by eight points or fewer. They are 4-5 in those affairs. West Clermont has scored 20 points or more just three times in its last 11 tilts.

HAMILTON’S KEYS TO VICTORY: Getting out to a double-digit lead will make life rough for West Clermont, who is not built to play from behind. The explosive Big Blue backfield is more than capable of getting that done running behind a monstrous offensive line. If that happens it will be a long night for the Wolves. Taking care of the football is also a must. Hamilton had 15 turnovers over its last six contests a year ago.

WEST CLERMONT’S KEYS TO VICTORY: Keeping the game close is vital for the Wolves. Churning out the yards on the ground and keeping the chains moving and the clock running favors West Clermont. The defense will have to do its part and create as many three-and-outs as it can. If this comes down to special teams and the kicking game you have to like The Pack’s chances to come out on top.


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