HOUSTON — Houston was off to a rough 1-2 start, but after a big win Friday night, the Hawks are flying in a new direction.
Quarterback Nai Saechao plunged into the end zone from 2 yards with 30 seconds left in regulation to notch the go-ahead score and give the Hawks a 32-26 Northern Lights Conference win over the Skyview Panthers at Houston High School.
“It’s a big win. Everyone’s spirits are up,” Houston head coach Todd Whitehurst said by cellphone Friday night. “We’re ready to make a run for the playoffs.”
Skyview coach Eric Pomerleau said the loss is a tough learning experience.
“We had every opportunity to win the game,” Pomerleau said. “Our mistakes were down. We played hard.
“We still have to perform in crunch time. This is still a really young team that hasn’t been in these situations yet. We have four games left to continue to get better.”
Houston and Skyview entered the game with identical 0-1 records in the NLC. But with the win over the Panthers, the Hawks are now one of four teams with at least one victory in the NLC. Three teams from the conference will advance to the medium-schools playoffs.
“This was a big win against a conference opponent,” Whitehurst said.
Houston trailed 14-12 at halftime, but enjoyed a big second half in the win. For Skyview, Bailey Jones had a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Jones also threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Zimmerman in the second quarter.
In the second half, Tyler Howell caught a 37-yard scoring pass from Jones and Zimmerman scored on a 2-yard run.
The game was tied at 26 late in the fourth quarter when the Hawks used a big play on defense to set up the game-winning drive.
Skyview threatened late in the game, driving the ball deep into Houston territory. The Panthers held the ball inside the Hawks 10-yard line, but Houston’s Waylon Soptick forced a fumble and the Hawks recovered at their own 3-yard line.
The Hawks then took the ball and drove 93 yards in the final minutes for the winning score. Pomerleau said the Panthers were down three defensive starters on the drive. Soptick accounted for two big plays on the drive, taking a swing pass from Saechao and a toss for gains of more than 30 yards each.
Whitehurst said the Hawks had to change up their offensive game plan, but his players adapted.
“Skyview adjusted really well to our veer, but we started running a veer trap and we did really well with that,” Whitehurst said. “They made really good adjustments. We had to change things up and call different plays.”
Hunter Smith and Kruz Kleewein also had big touchdowns for Houston. Saechao and Kleewein hooked up on an 85-yard pass and catch for a touchdown.
Smith ran in a touchdown and notched the ensuing two-point conversion in the second half to tie the game at 20.
Howell caught eight passes for 153 yards.
“I thought Tyler Howell had a fantastic game,” Pomerleau said. “He really showed up at receiver, kick returner and corner.”
SKYVIEW INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Rushing — Skyview: Edwards 4-8, Collier 10-43, Miller 5-(-4), Jones 10-62, Zimmerman 1-2.
Passing — Skyview: Jones 7-14-0—148; Zimmerman 3-5-1—46.
Receiving — Howell 8-153, Zimmerman 2-41.