KIRKLAND – After each second-half possession, Hiawatha senior center Ben Watson limped off the field like he couldn’t bear to go on.
And yet, he carried on. So did his teammates.
The Hawks (1-1) battled injury after injury to grind out a 20-8 win over North Shore Country Day (0-2) in their home opener Friday night. They recorded six sacks, including two each from freshman Nathan Taylor and senior Dylan Hauck.
Still recovering from the loss of its starting running back, junior Nick Doolittle, who was on the sideline in a leg cast and crutches, Hiawatha had more early success through the air. Senior quarterback Mike Mercado hit junior wide receiver Alex Flores on consecutive strikes of 47 and 33 yards to open up a 6-0 lead.
After a North Shore Country Day touchdown made it 8-6, the Hiawatha defense took charge. The Hawks attacked Raiders quarterback Jackson Gray at will; even Mercado got in on a sack.
Then, they started forcing turnover after turnover. It started with a diving interception from junior defensive back Tyler Hamrick, and it continued with three forced turnovers on downs.
The Mercado-Flores duo came through once again on a 35-yard pass play, and right afterward, Mercado forced his way through defenders for a 12-yard score late in the third quarter.
As Hiawatha tried to drain the clock, Mercado relied less on his arm and more on trying to fill the gap in rushing production. He bowled through the defense for 46 yards into the red zone, and Flores finished the job with a rushing touchdown of his own.
Junior Michael Speer, who had 91 rushing yards on the day, finished the job with several tough runs, allowing Mercado to kneel away the final seconds. Mercado finished with 153 yards passing, and Flores had 119 receiving, but the most important stat was the victory.
Many Hawks surely spent the rest of the evening nursing their wounds, but with the way they kept battling, it seems they’re willing to pay the price of victory.