On a night where the offense provided a steady stream of important games, Harding/Humboldt remained undefeated in Friday’s special team.
Junior linebacker Dominic Hardy blocked a 49-yard field goal with 45 seconds left in the Cavaliers’ 28-26 win over Minneapolis South in the rain at Lebanon Field.
“It feels great,” said Hardy, whose team — in his second season as a co-op — improved to 4-0. “Last year, that’s how they beat us — in overtime shots. We can’t let that happen again.”
Harding/Humboldt – Ranked No. 10 in the latest 5A state poll – Has an impressive collection of organizers, and the KnightHawks didn’t take long to show their quickness on Friday offensive capability.
After a bad start, senior quarterback Jorge Irizari connected with sophomore Ijon Douglas on an 85-yard touchdown pass to give their team a 6-0 lead.
“Ai’Jhon will be special,” Irizarry said. “He’s a sophomore now, but by the time he’s a senior, he’s going to be a dog. It was a huge game.”
However, the South responded on the next possession, scoring on a 13-yard run by senior Nate Odren. A two-point conversion gave the Tigers an 8-6 lead with 8:13 left in the first quarter. Then they got a big break when a hold call on the ensuing tee erased Douglas’ 99-yard return for a touchdown.
Nan (3-1) took advantage when senior Rai’Shaun Wade scored a 12-yard touchdown to give his team a 14-6 lead. The Tigers had a chance to extend their lead early in the second quarter but missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.
One game later, Harding/Humboldt senior Jod’e Trice scored on an 80-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion brought the score back to 14.
“The seniors on this team have done a great job of making sure no one gets into their own heads,” Irizarry said. “We make sure we all keep going and never stop.”
That attitude continued until the start of the second half when Harding/Humboldt (4-0) blocked a punt at the south 3-yard line and got the ball. Irizarry then caught the touchdown to give the KnightHawks a 20-14 lead.
But as a heavy rain steadily began to fall, the Tigers tied the score at junior quarterback Carter Bersinger at the end of the fourth and fourth quarters with 4:09 left in the third quarter. 13 yards.
“We’re a young team,” said Southern head coach Ernest Sutton, whose team returned just two starters a year ago and has started two eighth graders (though One was injured and didn’t play on Friday).
“We don’t have experience. But we have some guys who can play.”
It didn’t take long for Harding/Humboldt to regain the lead, though. KnightHawks had 47 yards on the next possession, scoring on an 18-yard run by senior Robert Htoo. A two-point conversion made it 28-20 going into the fourth quarter.
South closed the gap to 9:24 when Bersinger passed the ball to Wade in the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown. But Odren was blocked on a two-point conversion attempt to give Harding/Humboldt a 28-26 lead.
The Tigers had another chance in the closing minutes, advancing the ball to KnightHawks on 27 minutes before an illegal procedural call. From there, three consecutive incompletes led to a drop in fourth, and Sutton sent his team out of the queue for Bursinger’s shot attempt, though the quarterback had the option of a fake if he felt the fake was empty.
“Carter hit a 35-yarder last year, and he hit from a 45-yarder in practice,” Sutton said. “Tonight he hit a 42-yarder before the game. But we kind of hoped they would. After selling the block, we could do fakes. They didn’t do that.”
Instead, Bersinger chose to play, and Hardy got the ball.
“My brain went blank,” Hardy said. “I want to get the block. I want to lock the game.”
Harding/Humboldt will try to maintain their unbeaten streak when they host the Minneapolis Henry next Friday at 6 p.m. at Humboldt.
“They believed,” said Harding/Humboldt head coach Andre Creighton, a 2009 Harding grad. “We talk about our secrets to success. You have to believe, you have to have good ideas, you have to believe in what you say and do, you have to have good habits, you have to believe in our values. If you do all these things right, then It will control our destiny.”
“4-0 doesn’t feel real,” added Hardy, who attended Harding. “We haven’t won in years (before the two teams formed a co-op). We’ve been on the other end of the blowout for years. It feels good to be here and have a four-game winning streak.”