It was a tail of two halves for the Hoggard football team on Friday night as the Vikings held off a late comeback attempt in a 24-21 victory over Clinton at Scott Braswell Stadium. Hoggard used a strong effort on the ground early, while eight offensive penalties and two key turnovers plagued a potential upset by the 2014 runners up in the 2A classification.
“We knew how good a football team Clinton was and we really wanted to finish our non-conference schedule on a high note,” said Hoggard Coach Craig Underwood. “That rushing attack can match up against anybody and I’m really proud of the way our defense battled with them tonight.”
After scoring 14 unanswered points to close the deficit to three, the Dark Horses took over possession deep in their own territory with 2:17 to go in the game, but Carson Whitaker grabbed an interception on the first play of the drive to seal the win.
While he’s been impressed with the progress made over the last few weeks by a young offensive line led by senior captain Kris Sciales, Underwood has made it a focal point early this season to finish off scoring opportunities. Hoggard did just that in the first half thanks to a good push up front and a well-balanced running attack behind Tony Allen and Rashad Wallace. The duel threat combined for over 170 yards and three touchdowns.
The Vikings scored points on its first three possessions thanks to a 47-yard field goal by Caleb Kuhne and a pair of short yard runs into the end zone by Allen.
“Our offense was clicking on all cylinders in the first half,” Underwood added. “We’re still maturing as a football team and looking to put together a complete game, but there’s a whole lot we can learn from it. Rashad and Tony both have their own running styles so it’s kind of what fits best against the defense.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, Hoggard marched down field on an 11 play, five minute drive, but a holding penalty made it a long down and distance before Kuhne split the uprights for an early 3-0 lead.
The Vikings’ defense was stout on the other end of the football, forcing the Dark Horses to punt after a three-and-out on their first possession. With good field position on the Clinton 47-yard line, Hoggard converted a pair of third down plays, capped by a two-yard run from Allen for the double digit advantage.
An interception by Brandon Ray on the final play of the first quarter after middle linebacker Zak Giuffre applied pressure on Clinton quarterback Kris Williams gave the Hoggard offense a short field to work with and Allen scored four snaps later from six yards out with 10:27 to go in the second period for the 17-0 advantage.
While standout Ryheem Skinner was averaging more than nine yards per carry entering Friday’s contest for the Dark Horses, the junior running back was contained for all but one play in the first half, a 72-yard touchdown run to put Clinton on the board approaching the three-minute mark of the second quarter. Skinner closed the night with 122 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
With the Vikings in front 17-7, Wallace took the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to get Hoggard favorable field position and the junior running back scored on a 56-yard touchdown to gain some breathing room headed into the break.
“We preach it every day to stay together and good things will happen,” said Underwood. “They made a run their in the second half and we can always clean up some things, but we executed when we needed too to get the win.”
The Dark Horses closed the deficit to 24-14 on the opening possession of the second half following a 10-play drive, which ended on a 22-yard catch and run from Williams to Skinner. After forcing Hoggard to punt, Clinton had a chance to make it a one score game, but Omar Jones and Shaun Miller picked up a sack on a third and long. Defensive lineman Will Dykes also finished with seven tackles and one for loss.
Big plays in the second half kept the Dark Horses in the game as Williams hit Tyion Wright on a 76-yard pass to set up a goal line situation and Skinner punched it in on fourth down with 7:02 to play in the ballgame.
Bryant Sasser completed 5-of-9 pass attempts for the Vikings, while Tristan Kandare made three catches for 25 yards.
The result snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 2-3 overall heading into their conference opener at home against South Brunswick on September 25. Clinton fell to 2-1 on the year.
U.S. Cellular also chose Hoggard as one of eight schools across the nation to participate in a loudest fan contest, with the winning school being awarded $25,000. At halftime, fans were asked to rise to their feet and make as much noise as possible and Vikings’ nation did not disappoint. Decibel levels reached 108 db, setting the all-time record at Scott Braswell Stadium. Click here to learn more about the U.S. Cellular loudest fan contest.
Hoggard- Caleb Kuhne, 47 yard field goal, 7:30
Hoggard- Tony Allen, 2 yard run, (PAT, Kuhne) 2:22
Hoggard- Tony Allen, 6 yard run, (PAT, Kuhne) 10:27
Clinton- Ryheem Skinner, 72 yard run, (PAT, Chandler Perry) 3:36
Hoggard-Rashad Wallace, 56 yard run, (PAT, Kuhne) 2:38
Clinton- Kris Williams, 22 yard pass to Ryheem Skinner, (PAT, Perry) 7:13
Clinton- Ryheem Skinner, 2 yard run, (PAT, Perry) 7:02