Tompkins, No. 8 East Hartford run to win over South Windsor

SOUTH WINDSOR — The intention was to put the ball in the hands of his teammates, emphasizing his arm instead of his legs as the season launched Friday afternoon.

But Raquan Tompkins couldn’t help but tuck the ball and bolt. A swath of open turf and the East Hartford junior was off.

“When I see daylight, I can’t help myself,” Tompkins said after a 41-7 victory over South Windsor. “The passing plays, they would just crash … I would just go, because I don’t like taking sacks.”

The result: 167 yards rushing, five touchdowns, a transcendent season-opener for one of the most dynamic players in the state. East Hartford, No. 8 in the GametimeCT/New Haven Register preseason poll, rode Tompkins to an emphatic win over their CCC neighbor.

Yet … there will be much to discuss at practice next week. The Hornets are overflowing with offensive talent, from running back David Ortiz to receivers Jaquan Allen and Jaydon Gardener. With three starting offensive lineman back from last year’s 9-2 team, expectations were soaring as the season began.

And East Hartford did produce 41 points. But the passing game didn’t quite click.

“I would say that we’re halfway to where we want to be,” coach Rick Milton said. “It’s a long season. We’re fortunate that we’ve got a lot of athletic guys and you can’t coach speed. But we have a lot of mistakes to correct. These kids aren’t satisfied. They wanted to see 50 points on the board and they were kind of upset at me when I was trying to slow the game down because they wanted to keep going.”

The passing issues may have been the product of a shortened preseason practice schedule as a result of the summer heat.

“[Tompkins] was hoping to get the ball out of his hands more and make his job a little bit easier,” Milton said. “The timing. We’ll just continue to work in practice and get better.”

Tompkins (5 of 15 passing) notched his first touchdown on 7-yard run run at 9 minutes, 18 seconds of the first quarter, scoring on East Hartford’s second play from scrimmage. In the second quarter, he scored on a 4-yard run at 11:35 before running 40 yards for a touchdown 24 seconds later.

East Hartford led 27-7 at halftime after an Ortiz touchdown run and a 14-yard score by Tompkins made it 33-7 in the third quarter.

The last score: Tompkins on a 23 yard run.

Last year, Tompkins threw for 1,950 yards and ran for 1,066. Teaming with Kevon Jones — now a freshman at UConn — Tompkins led East Hartford to its first playoff appearance in 30 years.

“I said it last year and I’ll say it this year — Kevon Jones brought football back to East Hartford, but we were 9-2 because of Raquan Tompkins,” MIlton said. “He’s the leader of this team. When we’re in a bind, the team looks to him. And he enjoys it. He’s a leader, just a natural born leader.”

There was nothing close to a bind Friday, yet the Hornets most definitely followed their leader. Viewed as one of the best teams in the state, all eyes will be on Tompkins.

He and his teammates? Well, they embrace the role.

“We like it because they put a target on our back,” Tompkins said. “It makes us work 10 times harder, it makes us want to push more. Now we have to watch out for every team, we can’t take no teams lightly because they’re going to play hard every time they see us. They’re going to be gunning for us, so we’ve got to play hard 24/7.”

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