ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – Christian Liberty was looking for their first win of the season and is most effective when it runs the football.
But Hiawatha head coach Sean Donnelly had his players well-prepared for the Chargers run-orientated attack Saturday afternoon. The Hawks (3-5) snapped their four-game losing skid with a well-balanced 20-9 Northeastern Athletic Conference victory.
“Christian Liberty earlier rushed for 400 yards against Mooseheart,” Donnelly said. “They had us beaten in the first half by running their traps and sweeps. Liberty picked up some good yardage against us.”
The Chargers in the first half rushed for 120 yards, but the second half was an entirely different story.
“We made some personnel adjustments at the half,” Donnelly said. “Their rushing was very limited and we held them scoreless in the second half.”
The Chargers took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when quarterback Gabe Grob directed a nine-play, 64-yard scoring drive. The Hawks defense and quarterback Mike Mercado took complete command after the lone Christian Liberty touchdown.
Hiawatha’s defense anchored by Dakota Quimby, Bart Hall, Devin Thevenot, Ricky Schumaker and others stuffed two Chargers’ scoring threats inside the Hawks five-yard line.
The first one occurred late in the first half with Hiawatha trailing, 7-6. The aggressive Hawk’s defense stopped Liberty’s top running-back Marcus Silva on the one-yard line when the half ended.
The Hawks took the second-half kickoff and scored in less than two minutes. Mercado tossed a 45-yard screen pass to Quimby to set-up a two-yard touchdown pass to Nick Doolittle.
“The momentum of the game changed for us when we took the second-half kickoff and scored,” Donnelly said. “The offense executed far better in the second half and we opened up our passing game.”
Hiawatha wrapped up the win midway through the third quarter when Mercado rifled a 74-yard pass to Derek Ross to the Chargers one-yard line. Mercado scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard sneak.
The Chargers managed 41 yards on the ground in the second half and totaled 161 yards rushing for the game.
Mercado completed 9 of 23 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown.