After costing Houston momentum in the first half, Hawks running back Waylon Soptick went out and got the momentum back. And then some.
Soptick came back from a lost fumble early in the first half to rush for 293 yards and four touchdowns, leading Houston to a 37-0 victory over host Skyview on Friday night in Northern Lights Conference play.
Matt Barron added a touchdown catch, a key fumble recovery and two interceptions for the Hawks, while Nai Saechao was an efficient 5 for 8 for 63 yards and a score.
The Hawks (2-0 overall, 1-0 NLC) had to battle to take a 14-0 lead at halftime, but too many ball-handling errors and too much Soptick cost the Panthers (1-1, 0-1) in the second half.
"As good as we were on special teams last week, it was the opposite this week," Skyview head coach Chris Finley said after his team fumbled away two kickoffs in the second half.
The Hawks started the game with a crisp 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive. After Skyview went three-and-out, Houston set up from the 50 with a chance to take early control. But Soptick fumbled on the first play, with Skyview's Charles Gibbons pouncing on the loose ball.
Skyview made it as far as the Houston 13-yard line before missing a field goal.
"Our defense has been great this year," said Soptick, who also plays cornerback. "We haven't allowed a point in eight quarters."
The Hawks held the Panthers to 63 yards and eight first downs, but Skyview's defense also put up a fight in the first half. The Hawks were able to put together a 15-play, 65-yard scoring march in the second quarter. But Soptick worked for his first-half yards, gaining 141 on 28 carries.
"They made some adjustments after the first drive," Houston coach Glenn Nelson said. "And even that first drive was not easy."
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Brandon Rice had trouble holding onto the ball and Barron recovered at the 10.
"That opening kickoff was a momentum changer," Finley said. "When they get the ball on the 10, it's tough to keep them from scoring."
The Hawks faced third down from the Skyview 4, and Saechao changed the play from a run to a pass at the line of scrimmage and hit Barron for a score on a fade route for a 21-0 lead with 10:38 left.
"It's a luxury having a quarterback who can do that," Nelson said.
After another Skyview drive stalled, the Hawks and Soptick started to break off yardage in bigger chunks.
"We made some adjustments at halftime," Nelson said.
He said Soptick started running more to the outside. The coach added that left guard Zach Tucheck and fullback Billy Etuckmelra led a great second-half blocking effort. Soptick closed the third quarter with a 12-yard run for a 29-0 lead. He completed the scoring with a 45-yard scamper with 10:20 left in the game.
"We kept our heads up," Soptick said. "We've been on the opposite side before. Skyview has some great athletes, but their heads were hanging in the second half. This year, we always want to have our heads up."
Finley gave some backups playing time late in the game, and he was so happy with the way they played, he said they earned more snaps. The coach also said Bailey Jones was solid, going 5 for 13 for 38 yards. The coach said the two interceptions were not the quarterback's fault.
Hawks 37, Panthers 0
Hou — Soptick 4 run (Wilbur kick), 7:37
Hou — Soptick 4 run (Wilbur kick), 1:43
Hou — Barron 4 pass from Saechao (Wilbur kick), 10:38
Hou — Soptick 12 run (Ross pass from Saechao), 0:29
Hou — Soptick 45 run (Barron pass from Saechao), 10:20
Rushing — Houston: Soptick 44-293, Etuckmeira 14-67, Saechao 7-19; Skyview: Rice 11-30, Casares 1-3, Gibbons 1-(-1), No. 51 1-2; Hinz 1-0, Jones 4-(-7), Craig 1-(-2).
Passing — Houston: Saechao 5-8-0—63; Skyview: Jones 5-13-2—38.
Receiving — Houston: Soptick 1-8, Barron 3-46, Ross 1-9; Skyview: Winter 1-11, Blumentritt 3-21, Rice 1-6, Harley 1-22.
Missed FG — Jones, 38, WL.