Hutto coach Brad LaPlante knows he has a special team with high aspirations. That’s why when asked how he felt about his team’s 38-14 win against Georgetown Friday at Georgetown ISD Athletic Complex in Georgetown, LaPlante didn’t exactly bask in victory.
“I would like to think we would’ve played better,” LaPlante said. “I’m going to give all the credit in the world to Georgetown, but there were times we didn’t play well enough on defense or offense. You saw it. Running backs and receivers running into each other. Those aren’t things that we normally do.”
The critiques may seem harsh for an undefeated team coming off a 24-point win. But LaPlante is aware it takes better efforts than that to win state championships. He’s not judging his squad by the scoreboard. He’s judging his squad against perfection.
Though LaPlante sees plenty to chew on in practice next week, most fans left happy after seeing their team win easily against an opponent they needed a last-second field goal to beat the year before. Senior Chase Griffin threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-27 passing.
His second touchdown pass came on a three-play, 68-yard drive that lasted about 30 seconds to end the half. He started it with a 26-yard dart down the right sideline to senior running back Chux Nwabuko, then threw a wide receiver screen to junior Dajon Harrison for 21 yards and capped it with a beautiful 21-yard toss to senior D.J. Baptist on a go route. The late score gave Hutto a comfortable 28-7 entering the break.
“When you get the ball at the end of the half, some people are afraid to screw up,” LaPlante said. “We have full trust in our quarterback that he’s going to make good choices. So when you have somebody that’s either going to run it and slide for a seven-yard gain, throw the ball away or make the throw like he did to Chux down the sideline to get us going, you can call higher risk plays… When you have a good decision-maker, it’s easier to be more aggressive.”
Senior Caleb Forrest led all receivers with eight grabs for 104 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown to get the scoring going in the first quarter. Nwabuko rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries and added 22 yards on four catches.
Griffin called his own number for two scores on the ground – one from five yards out in the second quarter and the other from nine yards out in the third. He worked with Nwabuko’s dad in the offseason to improve his speed and its added another dimension to his game. After rushing for just 65 yards and three touchdowns last year, he already has 106 yards and five scores in less than half as many games.
“Rick alluded to the question of ‘what do we need to do to get to state?’ We need to be more versatile in our offense,” LaPlante said. “You can’t drop back against the Cedar Parks and throw the ball 51 times a game. So when you have three good running backs, five or six good wide receivers, well now, they have to worry about Chase running the ball?
“That is an added element. So credit him No. 1 for getting faster and working on it, but No. 2 we realize that’s just one more way we’re dangerous.”
After surrendering 30-plus points in each of its first three games, Hutto’s defense has now held two straight opponents to 14. Georgetown gained only 319 yards on 62 plays for 5.1 yards per play. The Hippos blew a coverage on a fake wide receiver screen that left senior Noah Drum wide open for a 44-yard touchdown, but other than that points were tough to come by. Hutto’s young-but-talented defensive line of sophomore Landyn Watson, junior Lordswill Uwa and sophomore Braylon Sugg caused problems for the Eagles’ offense and allowed the rest of the Hippo defense to drop back into coverage and defend the pass.
“You saw (No.) 21 Landyn Watson. There was a time eight out of ten plays where he took over that game. That’s how good of a player he can be when he figures out he’s better than the kid across from him,” LaPlante said. “All three of those guys. We have a junior and two sophomores, so we’ve got a couple years with that good front left. (Watson) is the leader of that pack and his motor brings more intensity to those other kids.”