Facing adversity for the first time all season, a Huntsville defense that has made the case as the best in Class 5A answered the call.

A swarm of Hornet defenders blew up back-to-back quarterback sneaks to hold off C.E. King in a 17-12 victory. The win marked Huntsville’s third straight over a Class 6A opponent to start the 2020 season.

“In 33 years of doing this, I’ve never had one like that,” Huntsville head coach Rodney Southern said. “Naturally, you’d think they would try that (quarterback sneak), then do something different on the second one and get outside. Hats off to our kids, and Coach (Scott) Schroeder and our defensive staff. We played great defense all night long. We played on short fields twice and they got points, so it probably should have been 17-0.”

While Huntsville (3-0) never trailed and set the tone defensively for the majority of the night, the C.E. King (3-1) offense appeared to seize momentum in the waning moments.

The Panthers forced a three-and-out following a touchdown, and took over at the Hornets’ 35-yard line trailing 17-12 with 4:21 remaining. And following three consecutive third-down conversions, C.E. King found itself with a first-and-goal opportunity from the 7-yard line.

However, with the game hanging in the balance, a group that isn’t shy to stake its claim as ‘the best defense in the state’ stood tall and produced four stops — three from inside the two-yard line — to seal the victory.

“It boosts us up and lets us know that we can do anything,” senior safety Jadarian White said. “We believe in our head that we’re the best defense in the state.”

Led up front by the senior defensive tackle duo of Edward and Brian Bobino, the Hornets produced constant backfield pressure. As a result, a C.E. King team that entered the night averaging 299.3 rushing yards was held to just 227 total yards and 155 on the ground.

Edward flustered the Panthers’ offense with two sacks and six tackles for loss, while Brian made three stops behind the line of scrimmage and added a sack of his own.

“It’s amazing,” Edward said of the opportunity to play alongside his brother for one last season at the high school level. “You grow up your whole life dreaming about it and don’t want it to end, so I’m just cherishing every minute of it.”

Edward, as well as Quaterian Riles and Waylon Zapoli, recovered fumbles for the Hornets. White, a basketball standout who returned to football for his senior season, also made his presence felt with a pair of key pass breakups in the second half.

Junior receiver Justin Butcher rushed for both of Huntsville’s touchdowns, compiling 64 yards from scrimmage on 10 touches. Senior receiver Jordan Woodberry hauled in seven catches for 90 yards, while junior running back Jaylon McClain surpassed the century mark with 70 yards receiving and 45 on the ground. Junior quarterback A.J. Wilson passed for 204 yards and rushed for another 21, and would have had more if not for a pair of long runs that were called back due to holding penalties.

“It’s just chemistry,” McClain said. “Chemistry means a lot, and the more chemistry we make with each other, the more we hang out together and the more we practice, we keep getting better every day.”

Next up for the Hornets is their District 10-5A, Division II opener at Bryan Rudder. Kickoff is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m.