MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon football team built a 15-point lead against Birmingham-Southern on Saturday but could not hang on in a 41-35 loss to the Panthers.
Eric Thomas' 1-yard touchdown run with 12:02 left in the third quarter put Huntingdon in front 28-13. But from there, the game began turn in the Panthers' favor. Birmingham-Southern scored four touchdowns in the final 20 minutes to win the Wesley Cup and snap the Hawks' two-game winning streak in the series.
Records: Huntingdon (0-1); Birmingham-Southern (2-0)
The Turning Point: After building a 28-13 lead early in the third quarter, Huntingdon faltered midway through the second half and was outscored 28-7 in the final 20 minutes of the game.
During a 17-minute stretch in the third and fourth quarters, Birmingham-Southern gained 293 yards to the Hawks' 60. Three touchdowns in a 10-minute span, capped by a 77-yard touchdown strike gave the Panthers a 34-28 lead.
Notable Performance: Running back Eric Thomas led Huntingdon with 158 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. The 158 rushing yards are three yards short of his career high. The sophomore rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter and had 116 rushing yards at halftime. Thomas scored on a 23-yard run in the first quarter, a 1-yard run in the third quarter and a 1-yard run in fourth quarter.
Thomas, who also returned five kickoffs for 127 yards, finished the game with the third most all-purpose yards in program history. His 285 all-purpose yards are three short of the record set by Vic Jerald against Birmingham-Southern last season.
Passing: Michael Lambert: 11/34 for 177 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INT
Receiving: Jamal Howard: 2 receptions for 61 yards
C.J. Pugh: 29-yard touchdown reception
Kobe Smith: 12-yard touchdown reception
Rushing: Eric Thomas: 16 rushes for 158 yards, 3 TD
Kicking: Chase Young: 5/5 PAT
Overall: Trey Hayes: 12 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception
Tackles For Loss: Gavin Walker (2)
Sacks: Gavin Walker (1)
Quarterback Hurries: DeAnte' Griffith (4)
Interceptions: Kaiman Smith (1)
Head Coach Mike Turk on Saturday's loss: "More than anything, we're disappointed in how we played on both sides of the ball. We gave up way too much defensively and we didn't do near enough offensively. That's not a good combination.
"I take my hat off to Birmingham-Southern. They made a lot of plays when they had to have them. They converted some critical downs that helped them stay on the field and score points. We had some wasted offensive possessions where we didn't execute very well. We were not efficient at throwing the football and that made it tough on us. We were able to run the ball pretty consistently, but without the help of the passing game, it became a pretty one dimensional attack on our part.
"Ultimately, they did a pretty good job of stopping our running game late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter and they were able to take control of the game at that time. We couldn't dig out of the hole we made for ourselves."
Turk on moving ahead: "With the open week, we have some time to try and hash some things out and figure some things out. We have to make sure we have people in the right places and that we have the right people on the field. We're going to make some assessments and go back to work. We're going to try and make sure we use our time wisely and do what we need to do to get things corrected."
Coming Up: With a bye week coming up, Huntingdon returns to action at home on Sept. 22. The Hawks will host Thomas More at 1 p.m.