Blount Press Row

Dustin Off the Passing Game

Richardson sharp as Mountaineers close preseason on a high note

_MG_9545Heritage quarterback Dustin Richardson takes the shotgun snap at the Maryville College 7 on 7 camp last month. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Dustin Richardson didn’t throw at his receivers Tuesday night.

Devin Gardner readies for contact as Mountaineer teammate Hunter Terry closes for support. Photo by Brad Gardner

Devin Gardner readies for contact as Mountaineer teammate Hunter Terry closes for support. Photo by Brad Gardner

He threw them open.

The Heritage junior wasn’t late on the deep ball.

The ball was in the air before the receiver and, more importantly, the unsuspecting defensive back turned to look for it.

Richardson’s performance in a 40-26 preseason win over Pigeon Forge was easily the best we’ve seen from a Blount County quarterback during fall practice. More impressive were his comments afterward.

“We’ve still got a lot of improvement to make to get to where we want to go,” he said.

The contest with the Tigers was played under full-on game conditions: live kickoffs and punts, full contact, the works. On the very first play, Heritage brought the crowd to its feet.

Junior Khalil Abuhania took a quick toss from Richardson at the right boundary, reversed field across the formation then streaked 54 yards to end zone for a quick 7-0 lead, collecting a block from senior Hunter Terry at the 10 to clear the way.

Punter/place-kicker Kyle Broome had an impressive outing on Tuesday. Photo by Brad Gardner

Punter/place-kicker Kyle Broome had an impressive outing on Tuesday. Photo by Brad Gardner

From that lightning bolt opening, Richardson went on to finish 12-of-18 through the air, with additional touchdown passes to Devin Harris, of 22 and 80 yards, and Devin Gardner, 31 yards.

“The No. 1 thing is they’ve taken from the practice field to the game field what they’ve been taught,” Heritage coach Tim Hammontree said. “Dustin is a worker. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do, which is become a student of this offense so he can become a coach on the field.”

Offset by the running of all-county fullback Orlando Bledsoe and sophomore halfback Zach Amburn, Richardson’s play afforded Heritage a balance Pigeon Forge was never able to coral.

The Tigers hit back with a 78-yard, 19-play drive to trim the deficit to 7-6 after the Abuhania score. Things then cooled somewhat for both teams as the defenses settled in. Heritage accelerated with two touchdowns late in the half to begin blowing it open.

From his defensive back position, Gardner broke up a Tiger pass in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Richardson then directed a 13-play touchdown march, culminating with a 22-yard scoring toss to Harris for a 14-6 lead.

Orlando Bledsoe protects the pigskin as he closes on traffic.

Orlando Bledsoe protects the pigskin as he closes on traffic.

Regaining possession with 10 seconds to play in the half, the Mountaineers didn’t sit on the lead. Firing deep down the right side, Richardson connected again with Harris, who slipped a tackle at midfield en route to an 80-yard scoring strike and a 21-6 Heritage lead at the break.

Gardner struck with seven minutes to play in the third, taking a slant off the left side 31 yards for a 27-6 advantage. After Riley Jones recovered a Kyle Broome onsides kick, Bledsoe bulled in from 2 yards to cap a 41-yard drive for a 34-6 Heritage lead with still six minutes to play in the period.

A Pigeon Forge score briefly reduced the deficit before Richardson finished things himself with a 1-yard sneak just before the quarter change for a 40-12 bulge. The Tigers final two scores came against Mountaineer reserves late in the fourth.

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