October 20, 2009 9:46:00 AM
MABEN -- The mud that collected on the back of Hamilton High School senior receiver Kevin McCartney might have obscured the jersey number so it couldn''t be seen.
That didn''t keep sophomore quarterback Austin Welch from finding McCartney at a critical part of Friday night''s 12-6 victory against East Webster.
Welch completed a 28-yard pass to McCartney on a fade route that gave Hamilton a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Welch scored on a quarterback sneak on the next play for the winning points.
After Welch threw an interception in the previous series, the Lions had no problem putting the game back into the young quarterback''s hands.
"(The interception) was one of those things, but he came back, kept his cool, and had a senior receiver out there," Hamilton coach Ray Weeks said. "They connected and made a play."
The teams were locked into a 6-6 encounter until the Lions (4-5, 1-2 Class 2A, Region 2, District 4) made the late surge.
Weeks said it was a matter of waiting until something presented itself.
Welch and McCartney saw something in the secondary Hamilton could take advantage of and presented it to Weeks.
"They put in a new corner on me and I knew I could beat him, so I told coach to throw me a fade," McCartney said. "I told Austin to lay it up and let me go get it. He scored on the next play, so it worked out good."
Weeks credited his players for being alert and identifying a key situation in the game. He said Welch (5 of 9, 107 yards) continues to grow as a quarterback.
"He''s got some work to do, but he''s come a long way," Weeks said. "This is really the first season he''s played quarterback, and I''m proud of the way he has developed and progressed. I think he''s got a good future."
Even though Welch threw two interceptions, Weeks thought he did a good job of regrouping.
Seniors like McCartney and Durrell Hendricks, who caught a 48-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, have helped Welch mature.
Weeks said they''re not focusing on mistakes with Welch, but trying to support him as much as possible.
"What they are doing is telling him to shake it off and that''s what you''ve got to have with a young quarterback," Weeks said.
McCartney said Welch is like a little brother, so he''s going to do what he can to take care of him.
Welch values the leadership from McCartney.
"He''s great and told me I''m behind you so just stay in there," Welch said. "He said don''t worry about (the interception), just come straight to me."
After Ledrick Patterson intercepted Welch, the Hamilton quarterback found McCartney twice with a 6-yard completion and the 28-yarder to the 1.
"Sometimes you don''t have to win a game, you just don''t lose it," East Webster coach Jimmy Carden said of Welch. "He did a good job of doing that. He had a couple of big pass plays. He had the long pass play for a touchdown and had the short run so it doesn''t matter what grade you''re in if you can do that."
Welch said he''ll always remember the game because it was the first division victory for him as starting quarterback.
With two more games left in the regular season (at Ackerman on Friday and J.Z. George at home on Oct. 30), the Lions need to win one of those to reach postseason.
"We haven''t had the best start, but as long as we make the playoffs, that''s all we want," McCartney said.
The Wolverines (4-5, 0-3) have an uphill climb if they''re to avoid their first losing season since 2002.
One interception and two lost fumbles and the lack of big plays from his team concerned Carden the most.
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