Jack Duncan scored the game winning touchdown during the Hornets spectacular, 28-22 come from behind overtime victory over Butler County at Morgantown Friday.
“We had some chances to put the game away, but we never did. I was really proud of our guys for coming back in the fourth the way they did,” HCHS coach Bobby Eubanks said.
Hancock County (5-2) took charge early when they scored on the opening drive of the game. Cole Dixon was back in at quarterback and he showed a preview of what’s to come when he completed a pass to Kaleb Keown on the first play of the game.
Logan Willis crossed mid field on a hard run up the middle then added another first down run to inside the 30 yard line of the Bears. The Hornets later faced a second down at the 26 when Dixon dropped back and threw a rainbow pass toward the end zone. Keown was covered on the play but it didn’t matter as the big man reached up and pulled down the ball in for the touchdown. The Hornets went for two as usual and Willis cruised in to make the score 8-0.
Butler County looked to answer quickly when they took the ensuing kickoff and marched down the field. The Hornet defense stiffened in the red zone and stopped the Bears on fourth down.
Neither team was able to advance the ball through the remainder of the quarter, but the Bears got a break when Austin Volocko mishandled a punt and Butler County recovered at the Hornets’ 17 yard line. Four plays later the Bears scored when quarterback Jagger Henderson scored from a yard out. Butler tied the game at 8-8 when Solomon Flener threw a lateral pass to Zack Silcox for the 2-point conversion. Flener was stopped cold at the line and popular opinion is that the referees should have blown a whistle as forward progress was clearly stopped.
Willis and the offensive line carried the Hornet offense down the field on the team’s next possession. Hancock County faced a third–and–goal at the five yard line, but a pitch to Willis slipped through the junior’s hands and the ball was recovered by the Bears.
Both defenses played tough through the remainder of the quarter and the teams went to the locker rooms tied at intermission.
Alex Basham sacked the Bears QB on the opening possession of the second half and the Hornet defense forced a punt by the home team.
Willis set out the second half after suffering a concussion, but that great loss did not stop the Hornet offense.
Aiden Weatherholt ran for nine yards then Dixon connected with Volocko on a screen pass. Volocko made a great catch and run for a 28 yard gain to the Bears 14 yard line then Noah Mize did the rest. The senior rushed the ball to the two yard line before breaking tackles on a run around the left side to the pylon. The official signaled touchdown and the Hornets were on top again, leading 14-8 at the seven minute mark of the third quarter.
The Bears were trying to air it out on their next drive and it cost them. Duncan jumped in front of an intended receiver and intercepted the pass to give possession back to the Hornets.
The offense stalled near mid field and Volocko was in punt formation, but coach Eubanks called for a fake. The ball was snapped to Dixon, who threw to Keown for a first down. Dixon was later picked off by the opposing QB and the Bears offense had another chance.
Henderson got buried by JT Richards at the Hornets’ 20 yard line, forcing a fourth–and–long for the Bears. Henderson then threw deep and Flener made the catch for the TD in the back left corner of the end zone. Flener and Henderson switched places on the conversion attempt and the seniors hooked up to give the Bears a 16-14 lead.
The Hornets stayed on the ground and Mize lost the ball while fighting for extra yardage. Butler recovered and the Hornets faced a difficult situation as momentum had clearly changed directions.
Henderson completed a pass to near the Hornets’ 10 yard as the third period came to a close. On the first play of the fourth quarter Flener took a shovel pass and scored to give Butler County a 22-14 advantage. The HCHS defense stepped up and made a big play on the conversion attempt. Christian Richards dropped the ball carrier in the backfield to keep his team within one score. Keown had a nice return on the ensuing kickoff, but the offense turned the ball over on downs at the 22 yard line with under 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
The Hornet ‘D’ needed a stop and they got it. JT Richards made a hard tackle up the middle on second down and Luke Pritchard knocked down a pass attempt and the Bears were forced to punt the ball away.
The Hornet ‘O’ took over possession at their own 11 yard line with 4:55 on the clock and three timeouts in pocket.
A first down run by Duncan followed by a gutsy catch by senior Landyn Emmick moved the chains to the Hancock 42 yard line.
Dixon completed passes to Mize and Keown, but the Hornets faced a critical fourth–and–four situation at the Bears’ 30 yard line. With time running out the Hornets had to go for it.
Duncan got the call and the fullback made the play. The former “Milkman” now known as “Jack Hammer” picked up the first down to give the Hornets life.
“After we knew Logan wasn’t going to play the second half Jack came up and said, ‘if you need me at fullback I’m good’. So I knew right then that he was zoned in and ready to go,” Eubanks said.
Keown later made a great catch and run that gave Hancock a first–and–goal at the two yard line. Duncan scored the TD on the next play, but the Hornets still trailed 22-20.
With the all important conversion coming up, the Hornets showed that anything you can do I can do better. And that’s what they did when Dixon and Keown traded places and Keown threw the lob pass to his teammate. Dixon went up high under double coverage and came down with the ball in the end zone. The score was now knotted at 22 and overtime was forthcoming. “We took a time out and the kids said, ‘hey, what if we throw it up to Cole in the end zone’ and I said, ‘yeah let’s do it,” Eubanks said. “It’s their team too and we trust each other.”
Butler got possession first from the 10 yard line and they went backwards. The Bears eventually faced a fourth–and–goal from the 25 and Henderson threw towards the goal line. The ball was tipped and Drew Lyday came up with the interception and the Hornets were ready to take their turn from the 10.
It only took one play as Duncan took the handoff and ran right. He slipped a tackle then ran over Butler’s Luke Laughing at the goal line to score the winning TD.
The Hornet players, coaches and fans rightly celebrated the district victory in what was one of the most exciting high school football games played this season.
The team enjoyed their bye week this week and will be back in action when they face district foe McLean County on Oct. 15.
“We took two days off this week then back to work. We’ll clean up some things, get healed up and be ready for McLean County,” Bobby said.
By Steve Wimmer