By Gene Phelps

Special to the Gazette

NEW ALBANY – A soggy, wet field didn’t slow down Myrtle’s potent offensive attack in Friday’s 34-8 Division 1-1A win against Coldwater at the New Albany Sportsplex.

The Hawks devoured the mud and the first-quarter clock – scoring thought the air and on the ground – to build a 12-0 lead.

“That’s our identity – ground and pound – when you’ve got running backs like we’ve got and quarterbacks like we’ve got,” Myrtle head coach Jeremy Smithey said.

The win sets up this week’s home showdown against Baldwyn as battle for second place in 1-1A. The winner earns a host berth for a first-round MHSAA state playoff game.

Myrtle (6-4 overall, 5-1 division) is playing its first season as a division member. The Hawks played as an independent last year in their first varsity season.

“Baldwyn’s a very storied program. There’s a lot on the line,” Smithey said. “They’re very sound fundamentally … probably one of the best teams we’ll play all year.”

Gage Enis caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jackson Mayer to cap Myrtle’s opening march, which covered 74 yards in nine plays. Of that total, 50 yards came six carries by workhorse running back A.I. Nugent.

Myrtle’s other quarterback, Elijah Thompson, led the Hawks to the end zone with his arm and legs on their second possession. He rushed for 27 yards on the 9-play 62-yard drive and scored the TD on a 10-yard keeper. He also had a 9-yard pass to Nugent on third-and-9 play.

Nugent gave the Hawks a 20-0 lead in the second quarter on his 33-yard TD run with help from a block by receiver Luke Gaines. A botched punt attempt by Coldwater set up Myrtle’s score.

Gaines would score before halftime when he scooped up a fumble and scored on a 13-yard run to give Myrtle a 26-0 lead.

Nugent, who rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries, added a second-half touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.

Defensively, Myrtle held Coldwater (3-7, 3-3) off the scoreboard until late – a touchdown pass against the Hawks’ backups.

“I like to build my team around the defense,” Smithey said. “Offense is important and everybody loves watching the offense. To me, if you can shut everybody out and hold them down, it doesn’t matter how many points you can score.

“I love a team that plays fast, fundamental and hits."

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