By Gene Phelps

Special to the Gazette

MT. PLEASANT – Myrtle is one step closer to reaching its ultimate goal this season – qualifying for the MHSAA state playoffs.

The Hawks, now 4-4 overall, improved to 3-1 in Division 1-1A with their convincing 46-14 road victory Friday night against H.W. Byers. Myrtle is in its second year of varsity play and in its first season in an MHSAA division.

“It feels good and it’s important for these kids,” first-year head coach Jeremy Smithey said. “I’m proud of these players and proud of the coaches. Everybody worked hard this week.”

Myrtle returns to action this week hosting Ashland in a division game at BNA Park in New Albany.

Hawks running back A.I. Nugent rushed for 142 yards on eight carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 10, 13 and 65 yards in the first half. His 65-yard scoring jaunt came on the team’s second play of the game. He added his other two TDs in the first half to help Myrtle build a 39-0 halftime lead.

“A.I. is A.I. He’s going to give you everything he’s got every game,” Smithey said. “That’s all you can ask of him. He finished runs, ran really hard and punished tacklers. That’s just what he does.”

Running back Ethen Hunt added 75 yards rushing on 13 carries and scored one TD on a 15-yard run in the second quarter.

Sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Caden Hutcheson scored his first varsity touchdown on a 54-yard pass from quarterback Elijah Thompson. Hutcheson caught the short throw on a flood route and eluded a host of Byers defenders on a sprint to the end zone.

“I had just one goal and that was to get in,” Hutcheson said. "It was a good moment. I just ran away from them. There’s not better feeling in the world.”

Hutcheson scored the Hawks’ final points of the first half from his free safety spot. He picked off a pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown.

“Caden’s a player we’ve believed in a long time. He’s starting to see the light,” Smithey said. "He’s worked hard. He’s showing his athleticism. I’m proud of him, he’s stepping up.”

In an abbreviated second half – the clock was running – H.W. Byers scored on a 34-yard run by Julian Moore and a 45-yard pass to Malik Glover from Michael James.

Myrtle scored its final TD in the third quarter on a 20-yard run by Carl Graham.

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