HEBRON – Hiawatha had almost everything working in the first half against Alden-Hebron.
The Hawks were operating so efficiently with running back Nick Doolittle, that they even converted a third-and-26 with a 30-yard screen pass from quarterback Mike Mercado to Doolittle.
A fourth win, and taking one more step toward a playoff berth, seemed within reach. But things turned quickly in the second half. The Giants scored on three consecutive possessions. The Hawks were not able to spring Doolittle for the sizable runs he had in the first half. A-H scored four unanswered second-half touchdowns to hand Hiawatha a 28-8 victory in their Northeastern Athletic Conference football game Saturday afternoon.
“We gave them momentum and let them get themselves back in the game, instead of the way we shut them down in the first half,” Hawks coach Sean Donnelly said. “They got nothing going. It’s easy to keep a team down when they’re down. We left the door open for them and they took advantage.”
Hiawatha (3-4 overall, 3-4 NAC) had an 8-0 lead at halftime and Doolittle had gouged the Giants for 121 rushing yards. Things were running so smoothly that when holder Braden Watson corralled a high snap on the extra point, he took off around left end, untouched, for the two-point conversion.
Giants coach John Lalor thought his team was flat after a 45-minute delay for the kickoff because of lightning. The Hawks, meanwhile, were ready to go.The second half was vastly different.A-H scored on its second drive of the half to tie the score, then stopped Hiawatha when defensive tackle Trent Redlin recovered a fumble. The next score may have been the biggest.
Giants wide receiver Cody Nelson took a handoff on a third-and-7 reverse and went 55 yards for a touchdown that seemed to deflate the Hawks.
“It was big and I knew they’d bite on it,” Giants coach John Lalor said. “Did I really want to show that in that situation? No, but you have to do something to get momentum back. As hard as they were coming, I knew it’d work.”
Hiawatha, which committed three turnovers in the second half, gained only two first downs after that. The Hawks still have a mathematical chance for the playoffs because the NAC plays only conference games, guaranteeing 40 playoff points. But they finish with two of the conference's best teams – Christian Life (6-1) and Chicago Hope (5-2) – both at home.
“[The reverse] was huge,” Donnelly said. “It got them a first down, got them momentum, got our guys upset because we had them third-and-long. We’ve had some issues trying to stop third-and-longs sometimes and it comes back to bite you. It demoralizes you as a team.”