The Hancock Hawks spotted the home-standing South Jones Braves 14 points Friday evening.
Then they got serious and walked away with a 27-14 victory.
Thanks to a stiff defense and some big plays on offense, the Hawks (2-0) scored 27 unanswered points in the final three quarters to complete the comeback victory.
“They stayed with it,” said Neil Lollar, head coach. “We made the plays when we had to and the defense was awesome. A lot of guys are coming around, and I am excited about what the future holds.”
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The evening did not start off well for the Hawks as South Jones drove 90 yards on the opening drive of the game for a touchdown.
Braves quarterback John Mitchell connected with Steve Lovett for a 10-yard touchdown to cap the drive.
Early in the second quarter, the Hawks fell behind even further when Lovett intercepted a Caleb Garcia pass and returned it 70 yards for a score.
The point-after gave South Jones a 14-0 lead.
Hancock struck right back when Garcia connected with Brooks Rayburn for a 62-yard touchdown pass.
Elliot Nolan added the point-after to cut the score to 14-7, and it remained that way at the halftime break.
The Braves got excellent field position early at the Hawks’ 18 in the third, thanks to a big punt return. The Hawks defense then came up big.
Sacks by Nick Irias and Chase McDonald knocked the Braves out of field goal range.
Later in the third, the defense made the play of the game.
Hawks safety Brodie Fitts intercepted a Mitchell pass and returned it 40 yards to the Brave’s 8-yard line, setting up the tying score.
“The coaches kept preaching to stay in my zone,” Fitts said. “The ball came right to me. I was telling myself, just catch it first and then run.”
Garcia scored three plays later on a 3-yard run and Nolan’s extra point tied the score at 14-14 with one minute to play in the third.
A sack by Irias and Trenton Ladner stopped the Braves next drive, but a nice punt placed the ball inside the one-yard line.
Undeterred, the Hawks drove 99-yards for the go-ahead score.
The big play of the drive was a 47-yard catch and run by Anthony Jones.
Blake Comeaux capped the drive with a three-yard run, and the point-after gave the Hawks’ their first lead of the game, 21-14 with 8 minutes to play.
Cameron Blaize ended the Braves next drive.
With just over three minutes to play, South Jones was faced with a fourth-and-four at the Hawk 40.
Hancock’s Trenton Ladner stopped Lovett two yards short of the marker, giving the ball back to Hancock with 2:45 to play.
The Hawks iced the game three plays later when Garcia connected with Marquis Cherry who galloped 73-yards for the clinching score.
The point-after failed.
“They were playing the run and I knew I could get behind,” Cherry said. “It felt great running down the field knowing we were going to win the game,”
Cherry led all receivers in the game with three catches for 106 yards.
Garcia connected on seven of 12 passes for 265 yards and two scores.
South Jones was unable to score and the game ended 27-14.
Irias led the Hawks defense, collecting 11 tackles and three sacks.
“It was a big win for our team,” Lollar said. “The kids are learning that if they stick together, it will be OK. Just trust the guys next to you.”
The Hawks will return home next week to play the Gautier Gators.