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Hammond seeks fourth consecutive state championship

Columbia – Regardless of level or association, one cannot help to be impressed with the success of the Hammond School football program under the direction of head coach Erik Kimrey.

Since taking over the SCISA Class AAA program in 2004, Kimrey has guided the Skyhawks to 11 state championships. He seeks a 12th when Hammond takes on Laurence Manning in the Class AAA state championship game on Nov. 20 at Charleston Southern University.

Hammond enters the contest with only one blemish on its 2020 record, a 7-6 loss to First Baptist in the middle of the season. That loss was the first for Hammond against an in-state program since 2016.

The work done this fall, amidst a Covid-19 virus and a much less-experienced roster, was somewhat amazing.

“It has been a different year for sure and I am super grateful that we’ve been able to play games this year,” Kimrey said. “It’s a true testament to the character and the sheer will of this football team. We had some challenges and this team stayed focused and attacked every challenge.”

One of those challenges was replacing 21 seniors from last year, which was the most talented group of players ever assembled on a SCISA roster. That included nine starters on a defense that saw no less than five players earn a Division I power 5 opportunity. The entire starting defensive line ended up at South Carolina, as did a cornerback. The best linebacker went to The Citadel and the starting quarterback walked on at Georgia.

The work performed by Hammond’s defense this season is nothing short of remarkable. The unit has allowed less than eight points per game. Only two opponents managed to score more than one touchdown against Hammond, and several touchdowns allowed were not against the first-team unit.

During the preseason, Kimrey charged defensive coordinator Roy Kirby will coming up with a moniker or narrative that would describe the new unit. They became the “no name” defense.

“What a wonderful group of young men,” Kimrey said. “Very unselfish and team-oriented. After the group that we lost, the name fit these guys. No one recognizes their names but they make quite a statement.”

The defense has but two full-time senior starters, outside linebacker Brig Brannon and defensive back Harris Jackson. Senior Mason Harrington, a starting tackle on offense, does see significant playing time on the defensive line.

Harrington is a leader along the offensive line and has been part of a very solid unit this fall. He is the lone senior up front, joined by juniors Drew Bobo, Michael Moran and Nates Brabham, and sophomore Jackson Osborne.

The bell cow offensively is junior running back C.J. Stokes, who is already receiving numerous Power 5 college offers, including South Carolina and Louisville. Stokes has topped the 1,000-yard mark this season despite missing some time.

“He’s a wonderful talent,” says Kimrey of Stokes.

The development of freshman quarterback Whit Muschamp has allowed Kimrey to move versatile playmaker Jack Weston to a receiver spot and the offense has flourished.

“I’ve been pleased with how the offense has progressed. We have tweaked a few things and have seen positive results,” Kimrey said.

In Laurence Manning, Kimrey sees a physical team that played Hammond well earlier this season. Hammond won the game, 28-7, but the score was tied 7-7 after three quarters. Hammond beat Laurence Manning in the title game last season as well.

“We expect them to fight hard and play physical,” Kimrey said. “They are tough along the offensive and defensive lines and they come right at you with a good power running game.”

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