Friday Night Feature: Hawley @ Barnesville
The inaugural battle for the paddle pitted the pair of undefeated squad's against each other in Barnesville. And as good as the action on the field was, the atmosphere surrounding it was as good as I've ever seen for a regular season game. And that's saying something because the game was terrific!
A whole 73 seconds into it the first touchdown was already hitting the scoreboard. It was courtesy of Brady Tweeton, running from 55 yards away. Talk about starting fast!
Then, almost as a sign of things to come, the point after was blocked enough to fall short of the goal post. The ensuing pair of possessions were just as quick as Barnesville's first, but neither were as electric with a turnover on downs by Hawley and a punt by the Trojans.
It seemed that Hawley just needed a few plays to warm up because they didn't look back the rest of the way. With their second possession they mixed the run and the pass to get their toes on the red zone. Their workhorse Donnie Loegering took it from there, literally he took the hand off and scampered in from 20 yards out. Not to skip a beat, Loegering then completed the eight point play with a push in for 2 more points.
Barnesville got the ball back with just under two and half minutes, only needing a minute six this time. Tweeton & the Trojans made it seem like all of us were in store for a new fangled track meet game as he outdid himself with their second touchdown of the evening - from 58 yards this time. They took a cue from the Nuggets and instead of risking another blocked kick they dialed up a pass play 2 point that Tweeton also got to his credit.
It was not until Hawley got the ball back off that score that the real story of the night became crystal clear. Loegering accounted for the next three scores of the evening, but that's the cliff notes version of things.
His next touchdown came on a 30 yard run, with a failed 2 pt conversion that left the scoreboard back at even. #87, Matt Thompson wasn't having that tie. After Hawley's defense forced Barnesville into another fourth down he managed to get past the up man, and with the added time due to a poor job handling the snap, he swatted the punt attempt out of the air before falling on it at the 33 yard line.
The extra possession lead to Quarterback Jacob Vetter's one glaring mistake of the evening though. Seeking to seize the momentum off the big play by Thompson, he threw it into the end zone but the coverage was too tight and Tweeton kept the score knotted with an interception.
All that the Trojans could manage with their next chance to put up points was a punt. Which brings us back to the main story. Before getting another touchdown though, Loegering had to get some more yardage. This time to the tune of 47 yard's. A couple plays later and the Nuggets were again knocking on the door, after a reception by Noah Glad. It only took one more play for 26 to cash in again. After another successful two point conversion by Vetter the scoreboard sat at 14-22, Hawley, with a minute ten to go in the half.
Barnesville attempted to use the remaining ticks of the clock to tie it back up but then ceded to the break after lacking immediate success.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Nuggets opened the second half with the ball and kept their mining operation on schedule. Another big play of Vetter to Glad put them into scoring range, but on an evening that had already featured multiple 50+ yard scoring plays I guess that just means they came back onto the field. What actually happened was Glad caught the ball and got it to around the 35. Shortly after that Loegering took a swing pass to the five yard line and subsequently got his third touchdown of the evening.
Then came the "it's just their night" moment. On another 2 pt conversion attempt Vetter tried to pitch the ball to his left but was off the mark. That would have mattered some times but this time one of the Hawley players managed to pick it up first and still got across the zero yard line. Now trailing 14 - 30, the wind could have gone out of the sails of the Trojans but that was far from the case.
Maybe they would mentally start to call it a night after another forced punt by the Hawley defense. But no, not so.
Well then what about after another Nugget touchdown? This time on a of the 61 yard variety through the air to Glad. Nope, a 22 point deficit with only a quarter and change remaining wasn't enough to get Barnesville to ease off their gas peddle.
And after their final possession of the third, I understand why!
It took them nearly 4 minutes of game time, which was a relative eternity when one considers how the game started out but a whole seven seconds into the fourth quarter the Trojans, Quarterback Caleb Stetz connected with Jalen Plath for a 21 yard touchdown. Stetz then followed that up with yet another two point conversion. That brought the differential back down to 14 and gave some much needed renewal to the home team and their faithful.
The energy from the south side of the field was short lived though. Vetter made another terrific throw, this time to Chase Libak. It only took 2:08 off the clock so if hurry up mode could work then the young men of Troy's window would still be open. But it wasn't. In all actuality, Loegering had slammed it closed much earlier in the contest and his Quarterback made sure that it stayed closed.
The scoring continued, first with a run by Trayton Cossette of Hawley and finally by Tweeton to close out the scorekeeper's labor. Under different circumstances the senior Tweeton would have easily qualified for PotG but the i formation duo of Donnie Loegering and Jacob Vetter made sure that wasn't an option while simultaneously earning the nod for themselves. Yeah, I fully support the whole co-player of the game awards, just not participation trophies - as a side note.
So Hawley went back North with the newly minted paddle trophy in tow. That may be the more lasting accomplishment from the evening, but the confidence and cohesion that should be growing amongst those 40+ teammates may bring about even more high profile awards in the not too distant future!