Jamal Ingram wouldn’t mind a few more nights like Saturday.
Ingram rushed for four touchdowns in Central’s 35-22 win over Hatton, and that’s the most the junior has had in one game since he was on the “B” team.
“It feels good. I’m coming for my buddy Dalton’s record,” Ingram said with a big grin, referring to recently graduated running back Dalton Hanback. “He had six one game. I’m coming for it! I’m coming for it! He told me to break it last year, and I told him I was going to do it.”
That will have to wait, but for now Ingram and the Wildcats are happy to be 2-0 after two strong performances by the running game and defense.
“I can’t say enough about Jamal and what he does out here on the field, but it comes from the way Jamal practices, along with the other guys,” Central coach Heath Wood said. “The offensive line did a good job there second half.
“We played a lot better in the second half. First half we came out kind of slow. We’ve got to get better at that. Proud of the way the kids played. Proud of the seniors, with the leadership, coming out here on Saturday night and playing out here tonight after all that (bad weather) last night.”
Asked to pick his favorite touchdown, Ingram said it was between his final two scores — a 20-yard run that ended with a dive to the right front pylon and then a 50-yarder up the middle in which he broke some tackles.
The 20-yarder almost ended poorly as Ingram juggled the snap.
“I came to get the ball, and I saw it wide open, and I was like ‘Oh, I gotta go.’ I was trying to go and I bobbled it, and then I got hold of it and just went,” Ingram said.
Trailing 14-13 in the third quarter, Central’s defense forced turnovers on downs on consecutive drives. A Hatton back was stopped for a 1-yard gain on fourth and 3.
After Walker Challender’s 1-yard touchdown and a conversion pass from Jackson Minor to Ayden Perkins put Central up 21-14, Central forced another turnover on downs when Gavin Davis deflected a pass along the sideline. Hatton hurt its cause with a penalty just before the fourth down attempt.
Ingram then scored his third touchdown, and Hatton’s next possession ended with a pass deflected by Perkins and picked off by Preston Langston.
“Defense came up big on those fourth down stops,” Wood said. “We got the pick right there in the fourth quarter to set up that one score. So, yeah, defense (is) continuing to get better.”
Hatton (0-1), a Class 2A team, used a fumble recovery by Brock Pace to set up a short early touchdown drive capped by Wil Terry’s 6-yard run and Briley Kerby’s conversion run.
The Hornets had the ball on the Central 35 in the final seconds of the half, and Kerby threw a bomb to the goal line as time expired.
Ridge Harrison jumped amid several defenders, caught the ball and fought his way across the goal line for an unlikely touchdown. The conversion failed, but Hatton led 14-7.
Central responded with four consecutive touchdowns before Kerby found James Jones for a 50-yard passing touchdown in the final minutes.
Hatton coach Denton Bowling thought his defense played well early against Central’s Wing-T offense but sensed the Hornets' defensive discipline slipped later in the game.
“We played hard to begin with. It’s humid as all get out, and I think depth ended up getting the best of us,” Bowling said. “We saw some positive from a lot of our guys.
“There toward the end, we had some things that didn’t go our way and we made some mental mistakes. We’ve got to be better than that if we’re going to be a successful football team.”
Central, a Class 4A team that started 0-4 last year, is 2-0 for the first time since 2017.
“We feel like we’ve got a good team,” Ingram said. “We feel like we’ve got a playoff team. We’re feeling pretty good. I think we’re going to have things rolling this season.”