Hornsby Middle School’s game-tying touchdown and game-winning point after in the Bay Rivers District football championship game were nearly disasters. Instead they will be remembered by Hawks players as the great ending to a 13-12 overtime victory over Grafton Middle on Saturday at Bailey Field.
With the Hawks trailing 12-6 in OT, Hunter Brittain collided with teammate Jack Erwin vying for quarterback Caden Darber’s pass near the back of the end zone. Brittain gathered in the ball, which had bounded above both of their heads, before it dropped to the ground and before going out of the back of the end zone to tie the game at 12-12.
Then Carter Weissenfluh, all 5-feet and 78 pounds of him, came on to kick the extra point, admitting “I was nervous.” But Weissenfluh kept his focus despite a “wiggly” hold and kicked the ball through the uprights to give the Hawks (8-0) the title.
“He’s clutch,” Hawks coach Scott Vinson said of Weissenfluh. “He missed one early in the game, but he’s made 13 this season.
“A lot of middle school teams don’t have kickers.”
Weissenfluh said, “The reason I was nervous, is because I knew it was such a big kick, but I knew I was going to make it.”
The ending was disappointing for the Clippers, who often outplayed the Hawks in building a 187-90 total offense advantage through regulation. The Clippers (6-2) lost the regular season meeting between the teams by three touchdowns, but controlled the action after a shaky beginning.
Darber, who’s zoned to play for Jamestown High, got the Hawks off to a spectacular start by running 54 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later he passed to a wide-open Erwin for a 23-yard touchdown and the Hawks led 6-0.
The Clippers, led by the rushing combination of Xavier Longoria and Jordan Ballowe, as well as the passing of Evan Cole, moved consistently every time they had the ball. Ballowe, a seventh-grader, made a terrific 25-yard run inside the Hawks 10, only to be stopped when Darber recovered his fumble.
“Caden Darber is the kind of kid you can build a around,” Vinson said of his QB and hard-hitting linebacker, who made tackle after tackle for the Hawks defense. “He’s a beast.
“And (linebacker) Trey Drummond, who’s all of 85 pounds, made a lot of tackles. He’s one of 15 players we have who are under 100 pounds.”
The Clippers had better luck on a drive early in the second half. Longoria had a 15-yard run and Cole (6 of 8 passing, 67 yards) threw for 14 yards to Ray Gonzalez (62 yards receiving).
That set up Longoria’s 1-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 6-6 late in the third quarter. But Marcos Piggott stopped Ballowe short on the two-point conversion run and the game would remain tied into overtime.
Longoria put Grafton on top 12-6 with a 1-yard TD run in overtime, following the block of big Chase Wilson into the end zone. Zach Pennycuff, one of the Hawks’ biggest players at 5-9, 148 pounds, came up big in stopping Longoria short of the goal line on the two-point conversion try.
“He came crashing down and penetrated through the line,” Pennycuff said. “I hit him, stopped him and we won.”
They did indeed, avoiding two near disasters when they got the ball in overtime. They celebrated, all 50 of them, by mobbing Weissenfluh after his clutch kick.
“We kept 50 kids and 10 coaches, none of them paid, which is probably the largest roster any middle school team has ever had,” Vinson said. “Many have played four or five years of little league, so we wanted them to have a place to play.
“They all got along, and among the 50 kids there were 200 A’s on their report cards at five classes apiece. These kids did what they were supposed to on the field and off.”
BRD MIDDLE SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP