The Hornets showed fans something new and exciting Friday night.
A week after lighting up the scoreboard in a rout of Bryan Rudder, the Hornets got pushed hard in the second half by a feisty bunch of Bulldogs. Huntsville responded like champs, driving the length of the field and scoring a backbreaking touchdown in a wild 29-15 victory over Magnolia.
“These guys here, the one thing about them, there’s a never-say-die attitude on our sideline,” Hornets coach Shane Martin said. “The kids continue to fight. They weren’t going to let this thing get away from them.
“Our offense went out there and really worked together and put a good drive together,” Martin said of the fourth-quarter TD drive that covered 76 yards in nine plays. “We needed a score right there at that time. If not, it could’ve gotten real close at the end of the ballgame.”
Martin said the Hornets (2-1 in 18-4A play, 3-2 overall) showed strong character and overcame a flurry of punches thrown by the Bulldogs during their second-half rally. Holding a 22-0 halftime lead, Huntsville was stunned by two consecutive Magnolia touchdowns, but the Hornets kept slugging until they delivered the knockout blow.
“I think our kids fought. You know, that’s not a good word to use,” Martin said on a night when each team was penalized 10 times for a total of 190 yards. “I think that they played hard. I think they did some really good stuff. There were a lot of penalties, some I could see, some I didn’t see, but I’m just proud of our kids for playing through what they did. They kept their composure, played hard and won a big ballgame here.”
On drives that covered 99 and 59 yards, the Bulldogs (0-2 in District 18-4A, 1-3 overall) cut Huntsville’s lead to seven at 22-15. Wisely, the Hornets stuck with the game plan that helped them build a three-touchdown lead at the break. They handed the ball to running back James Burns and let quarterback Malik Brown work.
On fourth-and-inches from the Magnolia 30, they told senior Ricky Bennett to run behind big Denzel Bradford, who lined up in the backfield as a lead blocker for his classmate. Bennett did exactly what he was told. He followed Bradford, who flattened the only Bulldog who could make the play on the right side of the line.
“Denzel told me we only needed two inches, but when we went through the hole I could see one dude and a lot of green,” said Bennett. “I thought I could beat him outside, so I just took it outside.”
Untouched, Bennett scooted 30 yards to the end zone. Christian Moncada added the point-after kick, and with 6:03 left on the clock, the Hornets could breathe easy again.
“When they got big Mo on their side we just had to keep pushing and depend on each other,” Bennett said. “That’s why we formed this brotherhood. Family leans on one another and that’s what we did.
“We kept each other going and didn’t let anyone get their heads down. If you get your head down, bad things can happen,” added Bennett. “So we just kept each other going. Our defense had to get stops, so the offense could go put it in the end zone.”
Three times the Hornets put the ball in the end zone in the first half.
Senior K.D. Albert capped an 80-yard drive late in the opening quarter when he caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Brown. Then sophomore speedster Morie Evans, who has been out the past two games with a concussion, took off on a 68-yard scoring run midway through the second. And 27 seconds before the break, Champine snagged a 33-yard pass that Brown slipped between two Bulldog defenders to put Huntsville ahead 22-0.
Brown completed 15-of-19 passes for 198 yards Friday. He also rushed for 45 yards.
Evans carried the ball only three times, but for 123 yards. Burns added 42 yards on the ground and Bennett had 32.
Magnolia made it a game in the second half. Quarterback Noah McGowan, who nearly scored a touchdown on a long run on the first half’s final play, dug the Bulldogs out of a deep hole, escaping pressure and throwing from his own end zone early in the third quarter. He hit Jordan Turnbow with a 67-yard pass, and the Hornets were penalized 15 yards at the end of the play for a personal foul.
Greg Solomon punched it in from 16 yards out on the next play. McGowan’s successful point-after run made it 22-8 with 7:50 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, McGowan marched the Bulldogs back down the field. Shyerome Harris scored on a 12-yard run to make it 22-15.
“Coach was chewing our butts, but we didn’t let down,” linebacker Keith Arceneaux said. “We just got out there and ate.”
After Bennett pushed the Hornets’ lead back to 14 points, the Hornets tightened up defensively and turned away Magnolia on fourth down from the Huntsville 26.
The Hornets have a week off next week to get ready for the last five district games. Caney Creek comes to Bowers Stadium on Oct. 12 for a homecome game in Huntsville.
“We’re going to get our legs back and keep working,” Bennett said. “We’ve got to play with this kind of intensity, or maybe a little more, in our next game against Caney Creek.”
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