KIRKLAND – An early injury to its leader put Hiawatha in a hole that the Hawks couldn’t recover from.
Hiawatha senior Mike Mercado, who plays quarterback on offense, was hurt making a tackle on Luther North’s second play from scrimmage, and the Wildcats scored on their first three possessions on their way to a 46-14 win.
“It was easy to see with the way we played when Mike went out for a couple of series,” Hiawatha coach Travis Frederick said. “They just didn’t have the confidence that they could go out and succeed, which is a shame because I think they’ve proven week in and week out this year that they can succeed when we have lost guys because we’ve been beat up since Week 1.”
Luther North (3-3, 3-3 Northeastern Athletic) used its power run game early, scoring in only four plays to take an 8-0 lead. Hiawatha (3-3, 3-3 NAC) was picked off on the ensuing possession and the Wildcats scored one play later on a 21-yard run from Sylvester Pydych.
With Mercado out, Hiawatha couldn’t generate much offense, punting on its next two possessions and collecting only one first down.
“He’s our leader,” junior Jace Williams said. “Without him ... we’re not Hiawatha.”
Hiawatha’s one offensive bright spot in the first half came off a kickoff return from Williams. The junior took the short kick, broke a few tackles and sprinted up the middle for a touchdown to bring the Hawks within 32-6.
But Luther North added two more rushing touchdowns before half, including a 92-yard run from Pydych as time expired.
Mercado returned late in the second quarter and scored Hiawatha’s second TD on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The stadium lights went out, leaving the field in complete darkness with 1:22 remaining in the game, and the game was called.
“We still have a lot to battle for, we still have a lot to play for,” Frederick said. “We’ve got to get out of this funk, we’ve got to play better football because we are a much better football team than what we’ve shown, this week especially.”