ELGIN – Only leading by one point at the end of the first half, the Hiawatha knew it needed to turn it on in the second half against Westminster Christian.
“The biggest thing we told them (at halftime) is that they needed to pull it together and start playing football the way they have in the last couple of weeks,”Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said. “And, it was important that they don’t let this slip through their hands because they would regret it come the end of the year.”
Hiawatha (3-1) came out of the gate in the second half fast and hard and scored on its first three drives of the half to put the game away in a 40-27 victory over the Warriors (0-4) in Elgin.
Senior quarterback Mike Mercado had a hand in five of the six Hiawatha touchdowns.
“In the first half, we did our best to score. We could have scored more and held them more,” Mercado said. “In the second half, we came out and pulled our heads out of our rear ends and just showed them how we play Hawk football.”
Westminster went three-and-out in their opening drive of the second half and gave Hiawatha great field position. The Hawks took no time putting more points on the board. On the fifth play of the drive, Mercado found Allen Letterer in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown pass.
On Hiawatha’s next possession, Mercado’s 25-yard touchdown run gave the Hawks a 14-point lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Braden Watson recovered a pooch kick for Hiawatha and Mercado capped a nine-play 39-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run that took more than five minutes off the clock and made the score 34-13.
“Something in there just clicked and then we turned it on,” Mercado said. “The motivation kicked in and we did the rest.”
Hiawatha’s last drive ended in Letterer’s second touchdown reception of the game and his fourth of the season. Mercado finished the game with 114 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, as well as, 61 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
“He played inspired,” said Donnelly. “Mike is our unquestioned leader of our team. We are going to go as far as Mike can carry us. It is a big burden that we placed on him, but so far he has been able to step up and I know he does not want to fail. He wants this to be a special season.”
Hiawatha will travel to Ottawa to play Marquette (4-0) in a big Northeastern Athletic Conference test.
“We are all family and we pick each other’s heads up," Mercado said. "I couldn’t have done it without any of those guys out there. I respect every single person on this team. We are all family.”