After the Indians established the run against Hardin Valley — which had seven and sometimes eight men in the box — Whitson took advantage. He connected on 11 of 16 passes for 233 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-0 homecoming victory.
At one point in the first half, Whitson was 4-for-4 for 128 yards and three touchdowns.
“When I saw all those guys trying to stop the run, my eyes got real big,” Whitson said. “It opened up the gate right from the beginning.”
“We were able to get positive yards even when we didn’t have the right box count,” Tribe coach Joey Christian noted. “That says a lot about our guys blocking. That opened it up for Zane and put them in cover-0 and cover-1 (defense).
“It’s been awhile since we’ve had someone throw for five touchdowns.”
The Indians (4-0, 2-0 Region 1-6A) have won six straight games dating to last season. Hardin Valley (1-4, 0-2) was the last team to beat D-B, rallying from 17 points down to win in 2018.
View Todd Brase’s photo gallery from the game
The Indians’ swarming defense — featuring Nate Whitley, Jet Harris, Jackson Martin and Braxton Kulbacki — made sure the Hawks had no chance to mount such a comeback Friday.
The Tribe held Hardin Valley to minus-5 rushing yards on 26 carries. The Hawks’ passing numbers were 4-of-13 for 38 yards and one interception.
“The kids did a good job taking our game plan and executing it,” Christian said. “They did what they were supposed to and I’m really proud of them.”
The Indians marched down the field 79 yards in 10 plays on the game’s opening drive. Whitson found a wide-open Dalton Harkleroad on the left side, and Harkleroad did the rest on a 30-yard touchdown play that gave them a 7-0 lead.
With the Hawks again loading the box, Whitson once more connected with Harkleroad, who got behind the defense and raced 69 yards for another touchdown.
Whitson kept pouring it on. On the next possession, he hit an open Nacir Sensabaugh for a 25-yard touchdown down the right side. Jaden Alderson’s third point-after kick opened up a 21-0 lead.
And the Tribe took a 28-0 cushion into the half after Whitson hit Sensabaugh in stride on a 69-yard TD strike.
Harkleroad finished with three catches for 105 yards and the two scores. Sensabaugh had three receptions for 94 yards and his two TDs.
“Our offensive line was like push, push, push,” Whitson said. “We have great running backs and our receivers all ran great routes to open it up for me.”
After Jesse Greer recovered a fumble at the Hardin Valley 11 at the start of the second half, Phillip Armitage plowed in from the 1 to put D-B out front 35-0.
On Hardin Valley’s next possession, Isaac Ratliff intercepted a pass at the Tribe 45 and returned it to the Hawks’ 14 to give D-B great field position again. Whitson threw a screen pass to Tyler Tesnear for a 16-yard TD, Whitson’s final one of the game.
Armitage led the Indians’ ground game with nine carries for 60 yards.
Senior Kyler Banks, who plays on both the offensive and defensive lines, said the Indians were determined to rule at the line of scrimmage.
“Their defensive line was good, so we had to dominate every snap,” Banks said. “We did that and tried to drive them in the ground. On the defensive side, we tried to hold them at the line and let our great players like Jet, Nate and those guys make plays.
“To be 4-0 now, that’s an amazing feeling.”
D-B goes on the road to Daniel Boone next Friday night, while Hardin Valley hosts Knox West.