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Undefeated Bruins pass 1st-round test

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Photographs by Thomas Metthe

Pulaski Academy wide receiver Tra Johnson shakes off a Valley View defender during the first quarter Friday in Little Rock.

Pulaski Academy made sure Valley View's first trip into the Class 5A state playoffs was an unpleasant one.

Quarterback Layne Hatcher threw for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns to carry the Bruins to a relatively easy 57-21 victory over the Blazers on Friday night at Rector Field at Joe B. Hatcher Stadium.

"I thought our guys came out and did a great job of taking care of business," Pulaski Academy Coach Kevin Kelley said. "Playoffs are a different atmosphere, different feeling for the kids and coaches, and you want to get them use to that feeling without getting nervous and making mistakes. They came out and set the tone in that first quarter on offense and defense.

"We wanted to kind of come out and show some dominance early, and I think we were able to do that."

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The Bruins controlled the game from the outset and led 43-0 at halftime en route to running their playoff winning streak to 13 games, with Hatcher leading the way. The senior did all of his damage in the first half. He completed 24 of 37 passes and became the state's all-time leader in passing touchdowns when he hit wide receiver Brett Lynch for a 12-yard score on Pulaski Academy's second possession. Hatcher now has 174 touchdown passes in his career and will have a chance to add to that total next week in the second round against Harrison, which knocked off Hot Springs Lakeside 56-36.

Wide receiver J.D. White had 4 catches for 91 yards and 1 touchdown for Pulaski Academy (11-0), which has won 23 games in a row and hasn't lost a postseason game since dropping a 57-50 decision to Morrilton on Nov. 22, 2013. Lynch ended the night with two touchdown receptions

Running back Ryder Snell carried 12 times for 72 yards and 1 touchdown while quarterback Joe Waleszonia finished 6-of-11 passing for 19 yards and rushed for 45 yards and 1 touchdown for Valley View (6-5), which was hoping for a better showing its Class 5A playoff debut but was unable to consistently put together drives, particularly in the first half. Valley View had just 98 yards of offense over the game's first two quarters. In fact, by the time the Blazers built a drive longer than nine yards, they trailed 36-0. Valley View fared better in the second half and finished the game with 271 yards.

The Bruins, on the other hand, had no such trouble moving the ball. All six of Pulaski Academy's scoring drives in the first half were at least 51 yards, with Hatcher opening the game with a 9-yard touchdown run with 10:09 left in the first quarter to cap a 52-yard march. Lynch's 12-yard touchdown catch pushed the Bruins' lead to 16-0, and his second score, a 33-yard touchdown catch, gave Pulaski Academy a 22-0 advantage.

"I thought we were efficient on defense and offense," Kelley said. "We got them off the field quickly, which is what we wanted to do to lengthen the game and increase our number of possessions. Valley View is a very good football team, and we knew it'd be a tough game.

"But to get off to such a good start, I was really happy."

Hatcher added a 58-yard touchdown pass to White with 1:41 remaining in the quarter while linemen Ephraim Su and Allen Amuimuia added 1-yard scoring runs in the second quarter to help give the Bruins their 43-point lead at halftime. Running back Jaden Nash had a 65-yard touchdown run and Mason Kolb had a 25-yard fumble return for a score in the second half.

Backup quarterback Connor Beard also added a 16-yard touchdown run for Valley View in the fourth quarter.

Sports on 11/11/2017

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