Hancock North Central quarterback Brett Favre overcame cramped muscles in both legs during the fourth quarter to spark the ninth-ranked Hawks to a 29-22 triumph over stubborn Long Beach.
With possibilities of an overtime creeping into the consciousness of an overflow crowd in Lance Lumpkin Stadium, Favre took his club 59 yards in 11 plays to score the winning touchdown with just 28 seconds left.
Favre did the honor himself with a one-foot sneak off left guard. Favre completed a pair of clutch passes — a 16-yarder to Tim Cox and a 12-yarder to Frank Miller — on the winning drive. And after the running of fullback Donald Vince got the ball to the 7, Favre took the ball over with two consecutive running plays, one a 3-yard keeper and the other the winning quarterback sneak.
“I had cramps in both legs,” Favre said of the last drive. “I couldn’t move.”
Nevertheless he kept it on the option from the 4.
“I figured I would have to pitch it,” Favre said. “But I didn’t want to leave it on the ground so I kept it. We got it in there.”
Favre collapsed on the ground in pain after the winning score.
“It was a great comeback and it was probably a great spectator game,” HNC head coach Irvin Favre said. “And it was real hard on us all the way. We had a lot of rough calls during the night. Our kids just sucked it up when we lost (Charles) Burton and came back hard.
“Brett played just a super football game. Maybe the best he’s ever played. God, we are just tremendously happy. Brett ran hard, threw and played defense. It was real tough on him but he’s a real competitor.”
The Hawks, 7-0, jumped to a 6-0 advantage when Brett Favre raced 25 yards in the first period on an option keeper. He upped the advantage to 14-0 on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Cuevas and a 2-point pass to Casey Hoda with 4:15 left in the second period.
Then the Bearcats, 1-6, began their comeback, driving 71 yards in seven plays. Tailback Robert Taylor, who rushed for 91 yards and caught four passes for 108 yards, scored the first of his three TDs from five yards out.
Hancock’s explosive tailback Charles Burton struck early in the third quarter, racing 47 yards for a TD on a drive play. Brett Favre passed to Delano Lewis for two points and a 22-7 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Burton was ejected after being whistled for a personal foul against quarterback Todd Sims. On the next play, Taylor went into the end zone from 11 yards out. Taylor caught a 41-yard pass to set up the second TD.
Taylor’s 3-yard run and a two-point pass from Sims to Tim Salsberg tied the game 22-22 with 11:55 remaining in the fourth quarter. Another Taylor reception — a 32-yarder — ignited the game-tying drive.
The loss of Burton was part of the crescendo of the Bearcats’ comeback and the Hawks showed his absence until midway through the fourth period.
“You lose an explosive guy,” Irvin Favre said of the Burton ejection, “and you lose a two-way performer who plays both defense and offense for us. Of course, we had to rely on some other people and they did the job. And we threw the ball in clutch situations that was just excellent. We made some clutch catches. We knew Long Beach would play us tough.”
While Long Beach head coach Paul Magee was pleased with Taylor’s performance — “perhaps the best game he’s ever played” — and Sims’ passing (7-of- 15 for 156 yards) he was livid about the officiating. The Bearcats were flagged for six penalties for 61 yards while the Hawks were penalized 10 times for 94 yards.
“This is one of the sorriest officiated games I’ve seen in 27 years,” Magee said. “I never want to see them at Long Beach again. I hate to see boys on both sides deprived of playing their best games.
“(Brett) Favre played an outstanding game and the Hawks played a real good game. And our boys came back and played real well.”