VAN BUREN -- With a running back out Friday night, the offense looked a little different for Lake Hamilton. But the Wolves turned to senior Tevin Hughes early and often with a lot of success at Blakemore Field.
Hughes finished with 22 carries for 197 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was a driving force as Lake Hamilton pulled away for a 63-33 victory over Van Buren.
"I thought we did a great job running the ball," Lake Hamilton Coach Tommy Gilleran said. "We have been good the last three years with this offense. It was a little different tonight with some guys out. We have a lot of kids who can play running back. I thought our offensive line opened some big holes. They give us a chance to be good."
Lake Hamilton (8-0, 5-0 6A-West) set up a showdown next week by hosting Benton for a shot at a conference championship.
"We have been traveling a lot here lately," Gilleran said. "We are looking forward to this one. We get them at our place. We are going to get healthy, fix some things and look to win a league title."
Lake Hamilton jumped out to a 21-0 lead and looked like it would cruise to a victory. But Van Buren, which has scored 24 total points in its last three games, got things going on offense.
Chi Henry, who is among the top five in the state in receiving yards, played a big role. He finished with 8 catches for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also rushed 19 times for 56 yards with a score. Henry also tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass, too.
"He just keeps doing what he does," Van Buren Coach Crosby Tuck said. "He brings it every week. We ask him to do different stuff like carrying the ball we wouldn't ask him to do if we were healthy. He does a good job handling it all."
Van Buren (4-4, 1-4) has been seeking strong quarterback play after Bryce Perkins, who had Van Buren scoring 34 points per game, was injured earlier this season. The Pointers got it from sophomore Clark Seeger. He finished 12-of-18 passing for 162 yards with 3 touchdowns.
"We were able to keep it close," Tuck said. "He is improving. I really loved the way he played against the best team in the state. [Offensive coordinator Jon Brooks does a good job with our offense. He doesn't get enough credit. He is super sharp and finds ways to attack defenses."
Van Buren was able to cut Lake Hamilton's lead to 21-13 after some heroics from Henry. He had a snap go over his head but he calmly picked it up and tossed a 36-yard touchdown to Logan Fowler.
A big swing for Lake Hamilton was getting an 8-yard touchdown from Justin Crutchmer to take a 28-13 halftime lead. The Wolves' defense then got a three-and-out stop, and the offense used five plays for a touchdown and a 35-13 edge. Quarterback Grant Bearden capped the drive with a 2-yard rush.
Van Buren stayed in the game by recovering three onside kicks. The Pointers made it a 35-27 lead for Lake Hamilton in the third quarter with a touchdown and another score after a recovery by Peyton Pschier, his second of the night.
Van Buren trailed 42-27 to open the fourth quarter, but Lake Hamilton's rushing attack was too much. The Wolves were forced to punt just once and helped close out the game with 21 unanswered points.
"The onside kicks were a big difference in the game," Gilleran said. "We'll have to fix that moving forward. We didn't handle that very well. We might need some more starters there. We were scoring, but they were able to keep it close with those extra possessions."
Lake Hamilton was without running back Kendrick Martin, who has played a key role this season. That meant more touches for Hughes and Crutchmer who were up to the task.
Crutchmer finished with 14 carries for 124 yards with two touchdowns. He also caught 3 passes for 48 yards with a score. Bearden finished 5-of-6 passing for 108 yards with a touchdown.