Huntingdon closes season with three-game winning streak

Sophomore Eric Thomas became the third Hawk to rush for 1,000 yards in a season with 209 yards in Saturday's 42-14 win over LaGrange.
Sophomore Eric Thomas became the third Hawk to rush for 1,000 yards in a season with 209 yards in Saturday's 42-14 win over LaGrange.

MONTGOMERY, Ala.  – The Huntingdon football team celebrated Senior Day with a 42-14 win over LaGrange College on Saturday to close the season with a three-game winning streak.

The Hawks jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first 11 minutes of the game and put the game away with two touchdowns in the third quarter and one touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

The win was the Hawks' 10th in 13 meetings with the Panthers.

"The key to describing this senior class is how we finished the season," Huntingdon head coach Mike Turk said. "During their first three years, this group was able to enjoy a lot of success and accomplish things that no one else had done here. This year didn't go like we wanted it to, but these guys handled it the right way.

"It would have been very easy for them to split off and say the heck with it midway through the season when we were eliminated from contention in the conference race. But these guys didn't do that and we wound up winning four of our final five games because of their leadership and determination. I'm very thankful these guys stuck together and continued to believe in what we were trying to do."

 

Records: Huntingdon (4-5, 4-3 USA South); LaGrange (3-7, 2-5 USA South)

 

The Turning Point: Huntingdon took a 21-point lead in the first quarter on a pair of touchdown passes from Michael Lambert to C.J. Pugh (13 yards and 45 yards) and a 2-yard touchdown run by Kobe Smith.

But the 21-point lead didn't last. LaGrange answered to make it 21-7 at halftime and pulled within seven points, 21-14, early in the third quarter. From there, Huntingdon took control again.

Smith broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter and Eric Thomas added a 37-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter. Dontavion Cunningham closed the scoring for the Hawks with a 5-yard run with 10:51 to play in the game.   

Thomas (209), Smith (127) and Cunningham (63) finished with a combined 399 yards rushing, with Thomas and Smith becoming the seventh pair or Huntingdon running backs to rush for 100 yards in the same game.

 

Notable:

Conference scoring leader: Senior kicker Chase Young became the USA South Athletic Conference's career scoring leader in the first quarter on Saturday. Young, who entered the game with 304 career points, broke the previous record of 306 points with his third extra point of the game.

Young ends his career as the conference's career leader in points scored (310), field goals made (34) and extra points made (208). Young holds the Huntingdon career record for points by a kicker and is the Hawks' second all-time leading scorer. Former Huntingdon running back Trevor Manuel (2009-12) scored 318 points on 53 touchdowns before the Hawks joined the USA South

"Chase has been very solid and consistent over the course of his career and we're really proud of him being able to break the conference scoring record. He's very deserving of it," Turk said. "He's an unbelievable young man and I think these records speak to his consistency over the course of his career. He capped off a great career with another solid season."

                                                  

1,000-yard rusher: Thomas' career-high 209 rushing yards against LaGrange helped the sophomore join a select group of Huntingdon running backs.

Thomas is just the third Huntingdon running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He finished the year with 1,020 yards and 11 touchdowns on 142 carries (7.2 yards per carry).

Alex Baronich was the first Hawk to break the 1,000-yard barrier with 1,197 yards on 235 carries in 2009. John Iwaniec became the second Hawk to reach 1,000 yards with 1,047 yards on 188 carries in 2016.

"Eric is a special guy. He runs with a purpose and he is only getting better and better," Turk said. "I'm really proud of him for what he has achieved. He's worked hard for it. In a nine-game season, where he is sharing time and carries with two other guys, I think that makes the accomplishment even more special."

Thomas' 209 yards on Saturday were the third most in a game by a Hawk. Baronich set the record with 287 yards on 32 carries against LaGrange in 2009. Willie Horn ran for 231 yards against Westminster in 2005.

 

Setting the bar high: Senior linebacker Trey Hayes broke the Hawks' career record for tackles earlier this season. With nine tackles on Saturday, he finished his career with 310 career tackles in 43 games.

 

Stat Leaders

Offense

Passing: Michael Lambert: 9/16 for 178 yards, 2 TDs

 

Receiving: C.J. Pugh: 3 receptions for 74 yards, 2 TDs

 

Rushing: Eric Thomas: 30 rushes for 209 yards, 1 TD

Kobe Smith: 8 rushed for 127 yards, 2 TDs

Dontavion Cunningham: 10 rushes for 63 yards, 1 TD

 

Kicking:  Chase Young: 6/6 PAT

                                                                                                                               

Defense

Tackles: Trey Hayes (9), Peyton DeFleron (8), Marc Struck (6)

Sacks: Trevor Henson (2), Marc Struck (1), Troy Mandris (1), Mal Caldwell (1), Dylan Powell (1/2)

Tackles For Loss: Trevor Henson (3)

Interceptions: Jarrett White (1)

 

Head Coach Mike Turk on Saturday's win: "I was proud of our guys for answering today when it was a 21-14 game in the third quarter. We had struggled in the second quarter with mistakes and penalties and LaGrange cut it to seven points. But we dominated the game from that point forward. I'm really proud of the way our guys responded to that because it had happened to us in previous games and we didn't handle it very well. But we handled it today and we responded the right way and ended up pulling away in a dominant fashion."