September 5, 2013
Renewal of a
The crowd built slowly for a gridiron rivalry which had been dormant for many years.
The Lions of H.W. Byers had never met the Holly High Hawks in the modern era; however, they had played each other when the school was called Sand Flat. One of the most memorable games was one in which Holly High shut out Sand Flat 49-0. The head coach for the Hawks was Russell Johnson and Johnny Daniels led Sand Flat.
Liberia Nuckles sang the National Anthem last Friday night and the Lions kicked the ball to the visiting Hawks. Keivis Reaves fielded the ball for the Hawks and returned it to the 36. On the third play, the ball was stripped from the runner and the Lions took over on the 34.
After a penalty, the Lions faced a first and 15. Anthony Rubin was calling the signals for the Lions. They were on the good side of a penalty which put them in good position on a third and 10. They went into the end zone but the TD was denied because of an infraction (this was the first of four TDs which didn’t count). Rubin hit Ronnie Dennis, who went to the 10, but the play was flagged. Byers went out on downs at the 25.
Offensive holding set the Hawks back and then a bad snap put the visitors on the 10. They punted to the 33.
Rubin found Germaine Glass for a first inside the red zone. This was the third time the Lions were within striking distance in this quarter. They turned it over on a pass play which didn’t develop.
But the football gods were holding the Lions’ paws. The Hawks fumbled and the Lions recovered, still inside the red zone. Marquis “Buck” Moore was trapped behind the line of scrimmage and a play later another TD was nullified.
The ball went over to the Hawks and Ronnell Boyland took the helm. The quarter ended on a 0-0 score.
The ball changed owners early in the second quarter a couple of times and the Hawks scored a safety by sacking the Byers QB in the end zone. Holly High went ahead 2-0 for the first score of game.
Later the Lions quick-kicked and the Hawks started with 9:12 in the second quarter. Boyland went back to pass and Joseph Denham stepped inside a short screen and intercepted for about 30 yards and a TD. The point-after try failed but Byers went ahead 6-2.
The Byers defense was settling down and digging in. The Lions kept pushing the visitors back until they forced them into a fourth and 20 at the 9. The Lions took the punt at the 42.
A face-mask call gave them a first and 10 after Moore had gained 5. It was fourth and 10 at the 31 when Rubin hit Dennis at the 2 for a first and goal. Justin Sellers bucked his way in off right end. Moore added the two points for a 14-2 score.
The Hawks were still having a tough time with the Lions’ defense and they were committing penalties which were stifling forward progress. The half ended with the score 14-2.
The Lions received to start the second half but had to punt. It was short and scooped up by Reaves who was brought down at the 5. Ben Norman carried straight up the middle for six and Boyland ran for the PAT to make it 14-10.
On the ensuing kick, Moore returned the ball from his 25 to the Hawks’ 31. Rubin tossed to Dennis in the flat for a first and goal at the 7. A pitch-back went to Moore, who hit paydirt. An unsuccessful PAT left it 20-10.
During its possession, Holly High used Norman to shoot the gap. He made a trio of runs and the ball was at the 8. But the gods were still favoring the Lions and their defense caused and covered a fumble, halting the Holly High drive at the 7.
But Byers had to punt.
Things began to heat up a little near the end of the third. The Hawks were apparently stopped at the 1-yard line, but Norman broke outside for six. Then he scooted up the middle for the deuce. Holly High trailed 20-18. The quarter ended on that score.
Dennis made a one-handed grab for a first at the 30. Moore raced inside the red zone. Dennis made another spectacular catch for six, this time in heavy traffic. Again there was no PAT but a 26-18 score.
The Byers defense was still hanging strong. The Lions stopped the ball at the 43. They had pushed the Hawks deep into their own territory and then they roughed the passer. The ground gained by the penalty allowed Boyland to score on a 10-yard sweep and then run for the PAT. The score was tied at 26 with 2:03 left.
Holly High’s try at a squib kick was covered by Byers’ Trevan Hampton. Helped by two big penalties, Rubin then threw a paydirt strike to Montavious Reynolds. The PAT attempt was successful, but it left the Hawks just 39 seconds to tie or win. They didn’t make it, and Byers had won the reinstituted rivalry 32-26.
“This was a big win for the morale of our kids,” said Chris Daniels, head coach of the Lions. “We wore down in the second half, but we hung in there. We kept battling.”
Chris Rankin, head coach of the Hawks, was proud of his team’s fight in the second half.
“Execution issues put our defense in bad spots,” Rankin said. “Then we really caught fire in the second half. We did not come out on top like we wanted, but we did fight. We just have to keep working and get healthy.”
For Holly High, Boyland had 27 carries for 171 yards and Norman 23 rushes for 93 yards.
Byers (2-0) will travel to Coldwater for their next contest Friday and Holly High (0-2) will host Northpoint Christian School (formerly Southern Baptist Educational Center) the same night.
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