What a difference a year has made in the rivalry between the Metro League Sound Division’s top dogs.
Last season, Nathan Hale escaped in dramatic fashion against Rainier Beach with a 41-40 victory that turned out to separate the two squads in the final standings.
The Raiders went back to the drawing board during the offseason, and their offensive adjustments paid dividends in Friday night’s 53-7 victory over the Vikings.
“Rainier Beach has been the top team in this division for so many years, and every time you see them on the schedule, you know you have to be ready,” Nathan Hale head Hoover Hopkins said. “They’re very talented and well-coached. But it was just our night.”
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Nathan Hale has mostly used a Wing-T offense during the Hopkins era, but this year they turned to a read-option style that further allows senior quarterback Winston Hallam-Eames to utilize his array of talents.
Hallam-Eames got started right away Friday night, throwing a pair of touchdown passes and running for another in the first quarter. Nathan Hale (2-2, 2-0 Sound division) led by more than 20 early in the second period, just as it did last year against the Vikings.
But this time, the Raiders maintained their massive lead behind Hallam Eames’ 211 combined yards.
The home team’s senior leader was all smiles after the game, saying that he couldn’t be happier about his extensive role in Nathan Hale’s new offense.
“It’s a lot of fun for me,” Hallam-Eames said. “They give me a lot of freedom, a lot of power to call the plays and run the drives. I love it.”
Rainier Beach (1-2, 1-2) was picked to win the division in the preseason coaches’ poll after finishing as last year’s runner-up. But several of the main contributors to last year’s Vikings squad were seniors, including five first-team all-league performers. Hallam-Eames insisted that wasn’t the only factor that went into Friday night’s outcome, however.
“I think they lost a lot of key players from last year, which helped, but our offense has also vastly improved,” he said. “Our passing game is really getting in sync, and we’re just moving the ball really well. It’s exciting.”
One of the most special moments in Friday night’s game didn’t have anything to with offense. Nathan Hale’s Nike Slaughter, who has an artificial left leg, saw his first varsity action as a Raider.
“It’s an incredible inspiration,” Hopkins said. “He’s got a prosthetic leg, but he comes to practice every day, and he just loves football. So we tried to get him the ball, and we’ll keep trying.”