Corona improves to 3-1 on strength of running back duo - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Corona improves to 3-1 on strength of running back duo

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Posted: Friday, September 22, 2006 12:07 am | Updated: 4:52 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

So long as more nights like Thursday occur, everything will be fine.

Everyone wants to be his team’s running workhorse. Junior J.R. Hamm and senior Donovan Connor are no exception at Tempe Corona del Sol.

They both had their way during a 28-14 victory against Gilbert Highland. Hamm scored three times on 17 carries. Connor sprinted and weaved his way to 149 yards and a touchdown.

Each won city weightlifting competitions this summer. Each wants to be the team’s kingpin on offense. Each enjoys competing against the other during practices for playing time.

But each wants this year’s fast start to continue, and each knows he'll need the other — and more dominant performances like Thursday night from the offensive line — to keep these good times rolling at Corona.

“When the games come, we’re together,” Hamm said. “We get each other ready.”

“Of course I want to be the guy, but as long as I listen to the coaches and we’re winning, I’m happy,” Connor said.

Both use their lack of height to hide behind the offensive line, then use strength and speed to carve out extra yards.

The Aztecs (3-1) aren’t a big group up front, but their agility and cut-blocking techniques overmatched Highland (2-2) most of the night.

Hamm scored twice early and Connor took a pitch on fourth-and-2 and went 30 yards late in the second quarter to give Corona a 21-7 lead at intermission.

Nuku Latu’s touchdown reception off a brilliant fake by quarterback Joe Sanchez put the Hawks on the board late in the first half, but the momentum was brief. Aztecs kicker Gavin Rodriguez put every kickoff in the end zone, and a four-minute, 97-yard drive by Corona early in the third quarter set up Hamm’s third touchdown of the night and put the game to bed.

Sanchez hit Chasen Halcomb for a late touchdown reception, but time already ticked away.

“We’ve got to figure out what’s wrong on offense,” Highland coach Preston Jones said. “We haven’t scored in the second half all year.”

No problems on the Aztec side. A 3-1 start and gaining in the power-point ratings has Corona eyeing a return to the playoffs.

“We’re going to keep getting momentum and building on it,” Connor said. “Let’s see where it takes us.”

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]