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Top-ranked Eagles surge past Hooper, 42-7

Hunter Armstrong threw for a season-high 259 yards and four touchdowns as No. 1 Fort Dale shrugged off a sluggish first half to surge past visiting Hooper Academy 42-7.

Eagles’ receiver Luke Hutcheson caught touchdowns from Armstrong of 42 and 24 yards and Todd Burkett snagged a team-best six catches for 124 yards, adding one 25-yard score in the third quarter.

Armstrong overcame an early interception – his first of the season – in the opening quarter, leading the Eagles on three touchdown drives in the first half with Daniel Nolan adding a six-yard run following Hutcheson’s two scoring grabs.

But Fort Dale only led 21-7 at the halftime.

“We sort of got on them a little bit,” said FDA head coach James “Speed” Sampley. “ We came out flat and that’s a little disappointing.”

Nolan’s score came with seconds remaining in the second quarter. Prior to that, Hooper used one of the trickiest plays in football, the “hook and lateral,” to cut Fort Dale’s lead to 14-7 2:37 before halftime. Following a completed pass on third and 20, Colts’ receiver Shepherd Bowden took a pitch 53 yards for the touchdown.

The second half didn’t open like Sampley wanted either. Fort Dale scored three touchdowns – Hutcheson on a catch, Dustin Till on a reverse, and Burkett on a running play – but all three were called back because of penalties.

Still, it didn’t come back to bite the Eagles as Armstrong connected with Eli Blackmon 28 yards on third and 13 for touchdown with 4:28 left in the third quarter.

“It’s aggravating,” said Sampley. “Because a lot of times you’re not going to be able to score again. The teams that play in November are the teams that get better as the season goes along and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

The Eagles were also dealing with a wet field that quickly deteriorated as the game went along, although forecasted rain showers never came as expected.

“Maybe some of those penalties were because of the field…which then it’s understandable, but it’s not acceptable,” said Sampley. “With the passing game we just wanted to get the ball out in space to our guys and let them do what they can do. I’m pleased with it because we weren’t able to pass a ball at all this week in practice because of the rain.”

Fort Dale totaled 425 yards of offense, while the defense, led by Daniel Lowe’s team-high 10 tackles, held Hooper to 149 yards.

Burkett added his touchdown grab with 56 seconds remaining in the third. Perry Singleton added a one-yard touchdown in the early minutes of the fourth quarter for the Eagles.

Cooper Lewis and Stephen Till chipped in six tackles on defense, while Nolan had 70 yards rushing on 10 carries.

Fort Dale (4-0, 3-0) travels to play Macon-East next week.