By LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PIKEVILLE, Ky. —
Hurley only completed three passes, but their passing game could make as much difference down the road as it did on Saturday.
Nick Gibson threw two touchdown passes to Traquan Oliver to help the Rebels pull away from East Ridge, 36-14, in the Pike County Bowl at Hillard Howard Stadium.
Dillion Bailey ran for two TD and Gibson ran for one as Hurley overcame a slow start to take a 14-6 halftime lead. They added to it quickly with two scores in the third quarter.
The Rebels broke a scoreless tie early in the second period when 6-foot-3 senior Chris Hardin went high in the air between two defenders to haul in a 28-yard pass from Gibson at the Warriors one-yard line.
A 72-yard run by Caleb Skeens set up his own 2-yard scoring run as East Ridge took a short-lived 7-6 lead.
Oliver, Hurley’s bowl MVP, was soon off to the races, sprinting down the left sideline to turn a short pass into a 58-yard TD reception.
After the first of three East Ridge fumbles Oliver hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter. The talented junior broke free on a 64-yard run to the Warrior 13 to set up Gibson’s touchdown.
Oliver finished with 205 all-purpose yards that included 110 rushing yards on seven touches and 80 receiving yards. He was most proud of a passing game the Rebels hope to add to an already balanced mix of speed and power on the ground.
“We’ve been working hard on (the passing game),” Oliver said. “Nick does a little roll out thing and he was throwing the ball well. The coaches made good (play) calls. It’ll develop.”
Hurley coach Greg Tester was confident in his offense and praised a defense that had allowed just 138 total yards, counting Skeens’ long run, before the Warriors added a 59-yard TD pass with 38 seconds remaining.
“We struggled at first offensively getting anything going but our defense hung tough and kept us in the game in the first half,” the eighth-year coach said. “The second half we came out and moved the ball we got them in some predicaments.
“They were trying to play some man coverage and we got some people down the sideline and kind of took advantage of things they were doing defensively. They were stopping our jet sweeps, slanting against our motion, but we were patient.”
East Ridge, which opened its season a week earlier, has already matched its win total from 2012 and is a veteran team with 19 returning starters.
“(Hurley is) well-coached,” East Ridge coach Brad Allen said. “They had a great game plan and coach Tester does a great job with them.”
Hurley........................................0 14 14 8 -- 36
East Ridge................................0 6 0 8 -- 14
H-Bailey 1 run (run failed)
ER-C. Skeens 2 run (Jo. Clark kick)
H-Oliver 58 pass from Gibson (Gibson run)
H-Oliver 17 pass from Gibson (run failed)
H-Gibson 9 run (Bailey run)
H-Bailey 3 run (Justice run)
ER-Dotson 59 pass from Young (Jo. Clark kick)
First Downs: Hurley 10, ER 8; Rushes-Yards: Hurley 33-188, ER 30-119; Passing Yards: Hurley 103, ER 78; Comp-Att-Int: Hurley 3-8-0, ER 5-13-0; Fumbles-Lost: Hurley 3-0, ER 5-3; Penalties-Yards: Hurley 2-20, ER 1-10; Punts-Average: Hurley 2-36.0, ER 4-33.0.