MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon football team faced its toughest conference test of the season but emerged with a 41-35 win over Averett University on Saturday.
Both teams entered the game unbeaten in conference play and the outcome wasn't decided until the final minutes. Huntingdon defensive backs Peyton DeFleron and Fred Flavors helped seal the victory with two interceptions in the final three minutes of the game.
Before the late-game interceptions, the two teams were in a scoring battle. Receiver Otis Porter turned a Michael Lambert pass into a 76-yard gain to the Averett 1-yard line to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Eric Thomas midway through the first quarter.
Averett answered with back-to-back touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. Huntingdon tied the game with 9:47 left in the first half on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Lambert to Zack Self. Freshman Sebastian Verger scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Lambert to give the Hawks a 21-14 lead with 6:56 left in the second quarter.
Huntingdon built a 13-point lead three times in the second half, with Otis Porter scoring on touchdown passes (39 and 11 yards) from Lambert and Kobe Smith scoring on a 46-yard run. But each time, Averett answered and cut the Hawks' lead to six points.
Records: Huntingdon (5-2, 4-0 USA South); Averett (5-2, 3-1 USA South)
The Turning Point: After Averett cut the Hawks' lead to 41-35 with 7:21 to play in the game, the Huntingdon defense came through and made the lead count.
DeFleron ended Averett's next-to-last possession with an interception at the Huntingdon 33-yard line with 2:15 to play. Flavors ended the Cougars' hopes with an interception at the Huntingdon 44-yard line with 29 seconds remaining.
Huntingdon was able to take a knee and end the game after Flavors' interception.
"Peyton made a great play on our sideline to stay in bounds with the ball and Fred, at the end, he just battled the guy and took the ball away," Huntingdon head coach Mike Turk said. "Things like that make the difference in tight games. When a game comes down to situations like that, whoever makes those plays is going to win the game. Our guys made the plays today."
Notable Performances: Quarterback Michael Lambert and receiver Otis Porter had another big offensive day and defensive back Peyton DeFleron helped anchor the defense. Lambert passed for 349 yards, four touchdowns and an interception on 22-of-35 passing and Porter hauled in 10 receptions for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Porter's 10 receptions, which tied for the third most in program history, matched his career-high he set last week. His 194 receiving yards were three yards short of his career-high and the fourth most by a Hawk in program history.
Defensively, DeFleron turned in one of the best games of his career, tying for a team-high 10 tackles against the Cougars to go with a sack and the fourth-quarter interception.
Series History: Saturday's win was Huntingdon's sixth in eight meetings with Averett. Since joining the USA South in 2013, Huntingdon has a 6-1 record in the series. Before joining the USA South, the two teams met once as non-conference opponents. Huntingdon hosted the Cougars' in the Hawks' first home game during the inaugural season in 2003.
Conference Leaders: Through seven games, four Hawks are among the individual stat leaders in the USA South this season.
Quarterback Michael Lambert leads the conference in passing yards (1665) and is tied for the lead in passing touchdowns (19). Receiver Otis Porter leads the conference in receiving yards (650) and touchdown receptions (11) and is tied for the lead in receptions (39) and total points scored (66).
Passing: Michael Lambert: 22/35 for 349 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT
Receiving: Otis Porter: 10 receptions for 194 yards, 2 TD
Sebastian Verger: 46-yard touchdown reception
Zack Self: 3-yard touchdown reception
Rushing: Kobe Smith: 7 rushes for 63 yards, 1 TD
Eric Thomas: 1-yard touchdown run
Kicking: Cole Starr: 5/6 PAT
Punting: Zach Johnson: 5 punts, 43.8 average, long of 53 yards
Head Coach Mike Turk on Saturday's win: "This was a good football game. It's certainly easier to say that when you come out on the right side of it, but these were two teams that played very hard. There were a lot of breaks that happened over the course of the game, but when it got right down to it, we made a couple of really big plays that sealed the win. The two interceptions on their last two possessions were huge. I'm really proud of the defense for hanging in there and continuing to play. It wasn't perfect, but we found a way."
Coming Up: Huntingdon plays at Greensboro on Nov. 2 at noon (Central).