Hawks triumph with a season on the line
Hal High seniors beat Brock Bulldogs 26-17 in ripper
By Terrance Gavan – County Voice Sports
The Hal High game plan was simple.
The Red Hawks goal transparent.
The players aware of an uncomplicated and purposely straightforward game plan: Just do it.
It being what they’ve been doing all year in a stellar, uncompromising and undefeated (6-0) season.
Easier said. Than done.
The Kawartha sudden-death semi-final gridiron faceoff against Brock High School on Tuesday (Nov 2) at Brohman Field was never simple.
Nothing’s easy between the goal line spires.
Football is a simple game played by players who are neither facile nor transparent – cue gathered moans from coaches everywhere.
And so a stunning Hawks comeback – from a first quarter 14-0 deficit – and subsequent 26-17 victory played out in the familiar backdrop of a knee-knocking fourth quarter – over a formidable squad from Cannington will become one of those games that notch in noggins.
Players who have jelled as a unit in a splendid autumn that, so far, has no fall.
The Hawks knew going in that Brock would be relying on the arm of tall lanky, pivot, punter and placekicker Drew Emerson and the substantial evasive talents of their all-purpose tail back Jordan Bannister.
The Bulldogs punched one in early in the first quarter and then Emerson fired a TD pass from the red zone at the midway point of the opening 12 minutes to put the visitors up 14-0.
Glancing over at the Hawks sideline, there was concern, but no panic.
Coach Tim Davies said, in a jubilant celebration after the game, that it felt like he had “aged 10 years in two hours.” He added that the 14-0 hole was a problem, but the players were aware that they had the punching power to get it done.
Cue Hawk pivot Scotty Griffith.
Shortly after that second score the Hawks lined up on their own 40 yard line and with the defense cued to tailback Tyler Wood, Griffith stepped back in a classic hip-hop, two step drop and rifled a bullet to wideout Drew Paul and the track star just did the rest.
Paul magically found some adrenalin-stoked afterburners that left a string of bewildered defenders – and a stunned sideline reporter – gaping and gasping in his wake.
If there was a turning point in this game that was it. The stunning and blurry run was eye-popping and rejuvenated both the bench and especially the Hawks’ defense, which started to work the corners and funnel play toward their strengths.
Jesse Lefebvre missed on the convert but shortly after that miss the golden boot sizzled a single and with eight minutes remaining in the first half the Hawks made it 14-7.
And after that it was left to the team’s number one threat to strut his stuff. Three straight carries from Tyler Wood with three minutes remaining in the half pushed the ball to the Bulldogs’ five yard line.
Griffith called on Wood again and the sturdy running back carried the ball to the endzone with just three minutes left in the half.
Drew Paul intercepted an Emerson pass late in the half, but a fumble by Lefebvre on the Bulldog 15 gave the ball right back to the Bulldogs who pulled an old standard halfback option from the dusty files. The deep pass followed by a few Emerson strikes led to an Emerson field goal and a 17-14 lead at the half.
The Hawks mindset changed after the halftime. They started to pound the ball to the left side. For the entire second half Griffith and Wood and the O-line worked over the Bulldogs right side and it started to pay dividends.
The Hawks tied the game on a Lefebvre field goal with three minutes left in the third.
The fourth was a battle. A battle that was gradually won by a scratch and claw Hawks’ defense that slowly stymied both Emerson and Bannister. Hawks field position strength paid off when a Lefebvre single put the Hawks in the lead (18-17) for good with 6:24 remaining.
After that it was a question of kitty bar the door with a hectoring and harassing attack on Emerson. The Hawks big defensive unit managed that with a series of stops on third down gambles in the waning moments.
A late 25-yard off-tackle left slide and stutter touchdown run by Wood, followed by a two point conversion gave the Hawks a nine point edge (26-17) with just over a minute left.
Wood was ecstatic after the game, but with another game for the Kawartha championship still to come (tomorrow at Gary Brohman Field here in Haliburton), he talked like a guy who knew there was still work to do.
“Sure, it was a little strange being down 14-0 so early, but we never had any doubt,” smiled Wood. “We knew we could win this one and we just decided it was time to do what we do. The O-line blocked well and we got the touchdowns that we needed and it worked out.”
Wood also mentioned that his second touchdown was pretty important, no matter how late it came.
“Well, 18-17 was just a bit too close, so we were happy when we got that one,” laughed Wood. “That O-line was great … awesome the whole game.”
Coach Little gave full props to his opposition. “They (Brock) have tough kids and that was by far the most physical team we played all year,” said Little. “Physically our linebackers stepped up in the second half and we just pounded them. What they (Brock) were running was not complex and I think we might have been thinking a little too much in that first half.”
Which brings us back to our first point.
Hawks are back on Gary Brohman field tomorrow playing for the Kawartha championship.