Hoggard Vikings come from behind to beat 71st Falcons

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Hoggard Senior Patrick Morrison breaks a tackle on the way to a big gain on Friday.
Hoggard Senior Patrick Morrison breaks a tackle on the way to a big gain on Friday.

WILMINGTON – The Hoggard Vikings kept themselves in Friday’s home match-up against the visiting Fayetteville 71st School Falcons long enough to secure a come-from-behind win. The team did it by capitalizing on two mistakes in the last four minutes of the game. The result was a 37-26 victory that had all the hallmarks of shootout — big pass plays, finesse runs and timely special teams’ and defensive plays.

But it didn’t start that way. It started with a four-and-out for the Vikings. The Falcons first drive was even worse, at least statistically. On a third and 12, Hoggard middle linebacker Christian Hollar had the first of his many big defensive plays of the game when he scooped Falcons’ Quarterback Kyler Davis’s pass out of the air to give the Vikings the balls on their own 43. That interception came courtesy of a tipped ball from a defensive line that was in a war on Friday, winning the battles it needed to win, but losing quite a few along the way.

Hoggard Quarterback Josh Jones takes off for a big run on Friday against the Fayetteville 71st School Falcons.
Hoggard Quarterback Josh Jones takes off for a big run on Friday against the Fayetteville 71st School Falcons.

Those lost trench battles typically came as a result of the nifty footwork of the Falcons’ running game. On its way to 26 points, Davis, along with 71st runners Jaylon Jackson and Fabion Jones danced out of many tackles on Friday. But it was a ground game led by No. 9, Elijah McFadyen, who quieted the home-side crowd several times by converting third-and-longs into first downs.

As well as the Falcons’ running game performed, Hoggard had it’s own potent ground attack. And it struck first.

Following the interception, runs by Quarterback Josh Jones and Tony Allen moved the ball from mid-field to the goal line, where Allen scored from the one. Will Morton’s field goal made it 7-o with half a quarter played.

The Falcons hit back quickly, though, in a scoring drive that started on their own 22. Several short runs moved the ball to the Hoggard 37; from there, Davis avoided a series of tackles on a QB keeper and managed to find the end-zone from 37 yards out.

Hoggard's defense had a big second half on Friday to lead the team on a comeback victory over the 71st School Falcons.
Hoggard’s defense had a big second half on Friday to lead the team on a comeback victory over the 71st School Falcons.

With the score tied at 7, stick moving receptions by Collin Hairr and a few big runs by Rashod Wallace moved the ball for the Vikings, but those were not enough. The drive ultimately stalled, forcing a punt. A fumble recovery by Viking Reese Moulton, however, gave the ball back to the home team just as the clock expired in the first quarter.

Momentum didn’t stick, however. and one minute later, Hoggard found itself punting again. This time, the Falcons didn’t waste an opportunity, marching down the field to score again with 7:44 left in the half.  The Vikings managed to use more than four minutes and cover 45 yards with a variety of plays, but a missed field goal gave 71st the ball back on it’s 19.

From there, the Vikings narrowly avoided being down two scores in the first half when a holding call negated a 77-yard Falcon touchdown. Defensive end Landon Romano, whose name was also tied to big plays on Friday, broke up the ensuing third-down pass, and the Falcons were punting instead of scoring with just over two minutes in the half.

Starting on their own 33 with 2:36 left, the Vikings took to the air; Jones connected with tight end Patrick Morrison, who then broke several tackles to move the ball 50 yards. Now on the 18, it took only two plays for Jones to find Chet Radack for a 13-yard TD.

With 57 seconds left, it was 14-13. But if you headed out for popcorn, you missed the Falcons’ response. It came 26 seconds later on the legs of McFadyen. The first half ended with momentum and the score – 20-13 – in Fayetteville’s favor.

Defenders Malachi Rogers and Julien Williams made sure the lead stayed at seven, though, stuffing the Falcons’ run game at two key points in the opening drive of the third quarter. This forced the Falcons to punt less than two minutes into the third. Under a minute later, Wallace had another touchdown and the score was tied again, 20-20.

After the kick-off, the Falcons began methodically chipping away at the 70 yards between them and the end zone. And, while some fine defensive plays by Keon Bradley prevented a couple of deep passes by the Falcons from connecting, the Vikings defense could not get off the field, ceding some big third down conversions to McFadyen and Jackson. With the third quarter winding down, McFadyen turned a third-and-7 into another touchdown, giving the Falcon’s their last score of the game to start the fourth quarter.

A defensive struggle ensued, and after a few possession changes, Hoggard closed the gap with a field goal, leaving a three-point deficit with just over five minutes left to play. When given another chance, The Vikings made it count, marching down the filed in under two minutes to take a lead with a Jones to Morrison touchdown.

With 3:14 left on the clock, there was still plenty of football left to play, but two costly errors ended the Falcons’ chances of coming back. First, a mistake on the kick-off return left them deep in their territory. Next, a botched snap was recovered by Viking Mckenzie Frazier.

Less than nine seconds after receiving the ball , the Falcons gave up another touchdown to the Vikings when Allen forced his way in from the four yard line.

It was where the score would remain.

Coach Craig Underwood described his team’s overall performance as “resilient.”

The Vikings Defense, Underwood said, started “playing the way they are capable of playing,” leading to big stops.  And then there was the special teams play late in the game that ensured his team’s win, he added.

“They are starting to show signs of being a mature football team, so I am very pleased with that,” Underwood said. “Seventy-First is a great team — great athleticism, well ‘coached — so, for us to come out and get a win over them in a back-and-forth game, I am just very proud of the team.

“Our offense continued to move the ball effectively,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re on the right track.”

After an opening week loss to Holly Springs, Hoggard is now 1-1 on the season. The Vikings travel to Fayetteville next week for an away game at Pine Forest. Seventy-First stays home to play Northern, out of Durham.