By Tom Bragg, For Lootpress.com
Gallery by Craig Allison
HURRICANE, W.Va. – Rain, wind and the University Hawks could not slow down Hurricane quarterback Noah Vellaithambi on Friday.
Vellaithambi, a sophomore, led the way with five touchdown passes as No. 4 Hurricane breezed past No. 13 University 56-13 in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs on a wet, windy night at Redskin Stadium in Putnam County.
Hurricane opened the scoring on the first drive of the game when Vellaithambi found senior running back on a fourth-down screen pass for a 30-yard touchdown and from there the Redskins were rolling.
“[Vellaithambi] threw the ball great this week,” Hurricane first-year head coach Donnie Mays said. “He had a great week of practice and put the ball in nice spots. Tonight he made really good decisions with the football.”
Heath Montgomery intercepted University standout quarterback Luke Hudson on the Hawks’ following drive, and just a few plays later Riffle was back in the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown run to put Hurricane ahead 14-0.
The Redskins would go up 21-0 before the end of the first quarter when Vellaithambi threw a great pass to receiver LaRon Hall for a 15-yard touchdown.
University would find the scoreboard on its first drive of the second quarter. The Hawks were aided along the way by multiple personal foul penalties against Hurricane and capped a nine-play, 65 yard drive when Hudson threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to senior Noah Braham. University missed its extra point attempt to set the score at 21-6, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Hurricane turned up the tempo and finished an eight-play, 59 yard drive with a six-yard Mondrell Dean touchdown run to go up 28-6 and would add another Vellaithambi touchdown pass to Colin Montgomery just before the break to take a 35-6 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Mays said the message to his team between halves was simple – don’t let up.
“We told them it’s playoff football and you’re going to get their best shot,” Mays said. “Their guys were going to play four quarters. We’re going to have to come out and take advantage of whatever they are trying to do in the third quarter. You can’t just lay off the gas, you’ve got to keep going.”
Hurricane definitely was able to apply that message. University got the ball to start the third quarter, but Hudson was intercepted on the second play of the drive by Elijah Rivera deep on the UHS half of the field. That turned into a quick score for Hurricane as Vellaithambi hit Dean for an eight-yard touchdown. The Hawks then fumbled at their own 12 yard line on the first play of the next drive and four plays later Vellaithambi linked up with Lucas Rippetoe for a 14-yard touchdown to take a 49-6 lead.
“We had some short fields later in the game and [Vellaithambi] threw some good fade routes,” Mays said. “We’ve been waiting for the fade to open up a little bit, and he finally hit that, so that was a positive for us.”
Freshman Eian Duffy threw an eight-yard touchdown to Landon Taylor for Hurricane’s final score of the game late in the third quarter before University added a late touchdown on a 17 yard Sebastian Dalton touchdown run.
Vellathambi finished the game 12 of 18 on pass attempts for 193 yards to go with his five touchdowns.
Hurricane advances to next week’s quarterfinal round of the Class AAA playoffs, where it will face Mountain State Athletic Conference rival George Washington after the No. 5 Patriots slipped past Princeton 31-28 on Friday.
The Redskins won their previous meeting this season 56-7 on Sept. 9 in a game that featured eight GW turnovers.