Cardinals continue to churn out yards, TDs and victories with dominant running game

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KAHOKA, Mo. — Kendal Hammond can’t forget his freshman football season at South Shelby. Nor would he want to, because it regularly serves as a reminder about how far the Cardinals program has come since 2020.

“We didn’t win a game,” said Hammond, wincing at the mere thought of that season. “We went 0-9.”

Fast forward three years and South Shelby is sitting 5-0 following Friday night’s 44-14 victory over Clark County in a Clarence Cannon Conference contest that matched a pair of unbeaten clubs.

“There’s no limit to what we can do,” Hammond said. “We just have to keep improving.”

A senior running back, Hammond was the integral figure on the offensive side of the ball for South Shelby, ranked No. 7 in Class 2. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Hammond bruised his way to 204 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Hammond also scored a fourth touchdown via an 18-yard pass from quarterback Chase Moellering.

Hammond has rushed for 970 yards and 14 touchdowns (15 overall) in five games, twice running for more than 200 yards. Friday night was the third time he has scored four times in a game this season.

Much of South Shelby’s success can be attributed to its running game, which has been dominating. The Cardinals have rushed for 1,973 yards and have yet to be held below 300 yards in any game. South Shelby is averaging an eye-popping 394.6 yards per game on the ground.

Hammond says look no further than South Shelby’s offensive line for the reason behind those numbers. Chance Rainey, Kaiden Pool, Aadon McGruder, Cooper Elsen and Ethan Dodd make up the Cardinals’ line that has opened holes for the team’s 16 touchdowns that have covered 40 or more yards.

“Those guys are all my best friends,” Hammond said. “I love those guys.”

For South Shelby coach Adam Gunterman, this season is a 180-degree turn from recent years when the pass-happy Cardinals were busy flying the friendly skies of the CCC. Quarterback Trey Countryman, who graduated last year, threw for 5,134 career yards, one of only two quarterbacks in the region to ever surpass 5,000 yards.

“Going into this season, we knew we had to rely on our offensive line and two running backs (Hammond and Cameron Wiseman) we had coming back,” Gunterman said.

And that they most certainly have.

South Shelby has used the smash-mouth approach to offense to average 48.8 points per game while the defense has limited opponents to 7.6. The Cardinals have yet to be held to less than 41 points. They will risk their unbeaten record next week when they host Highland (3-2), which bounced Macon 40-20 on Friday night.

Hammond scored his rushing touchdowns on bursts of 19, 7 and 6 yards. He also added a pair of two-point conversions to go with his four TDs, good for 28-point evening.

South Shelby’s other scores came on a 51-yard pass from Moellering to Owen Stueve and a 1-yard run from Wiseman. Wiseman finished with 128 yards rushing.

South Shelby stepped on the gas in the second quarter when it put three scores on the board to lead at halftime 30-14.

“I think we took control in the second quarter, that was the turning point,” Hammond said.

Clark County coach Ethan Allen offered no excuses after the Indians’ third straight loss to South Shelby.

“South Shelby did not do anything unexpected,” he said. “We knew they would run the ball, and we just couldn’t stop them.”

Allen said the Indians (4-1) will rely on the team’s 14 seniors to help them regroup for next Friday’s meeting with Centralia (5-0), which turned back Monroe City (3-2) on Friday 27-22.

Allen agreed with Hammond’s thoughts about South Shelby taking command in the second quarter. 

“I wish I had back some of the (plays I called) in the first half,” Allen said. “That’s when South Shelby took control, and that’s on me.”

Quarterback Chayce Webster had a hand in both of Clark County’s touchdowns, both coming in the first half. Webster scored on a 6-yard run and later connected with Koy Nixon on a 15-yard touchdown reception. 

Webster passed for 99 yards and Jonny Shinn rushed for 84 to pace Clark County’s offense.

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