HERMON — It was a beautiful evening for the first-ever varsity home football game for the Hermon High School Hawks and those on hand certainly got their money’s worth.
The Hawks scored 21 unanswered points in the first half to take a 21-8 lead into the intermission and then held off the rallying Washington Academy Raiders with some clutch defensive stops in the second half for a 21-16 victory.
Both teams are in their first varsity seasons. Hermon is now 1-1 while East Machias-based Washington Academy fell to 0-2.
Hermon sophomore defensive end Kevin Gooley stuffed a fourth-and-goal sweep at the 2-yard line with 5:29 remaining to preserve a 21-14 lead.
Andrew Henderson carried the ball around the left end but Gooley limited him to a two-yard gain.
“I saw where the tight end lined up so I knew what they were doing,” said Gooley. “I was able to contain it (and make the tackle).”
“That was a pretty big play,” said WA quarterback-linebacker Nick Pineo.
“It’s a game of feet and inches,” said WA co-head coach Barry Terrill. “If we score we win, if we don’t, they win. (Gooley) made a nice tackle.”
The Raiders forced a safety two plays later and, after the ensuing kickoff, they set up shop at their own 40-yard line with 4:12 remaining.
But Pineo was hit from behind and fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Hermon’s Troy Bennett.
After a missed field goal, the Raiders regained the ball with 1:51 left and Pineo threw a 30-yard strike to Taylor Ackley that put the ball at midfield. But three incompletions sandwiched a four-yard pass from Pineo to Henderson so Hermon took over on downs and ran out the clock.
“I thought we wore them down in the second half but they made enough plays to win the game,” said Terrill. “I just wished we played the whole game like we did in the second half.”
Washington Academy jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter on Ellic Smith’s 10-yard run and Zac Ragot’s two-point conversion rush after Pineo had recovered a Hermon fumble at the 10.
Andrew Farnsworth’s 30-yard punt return and an ensuing penalty set WA up at the 13-yard line but the Hawks stiffened on defense and took over at the eight when Nick Bennett tackled Smith after a two-yard gain on fourth and five.
“If we had been able to score there, it would have made a big difference,” said Terrill.
The Hawks used a 65-yard run by Gooley to set up a 13-yard touchdown run by David Shepardson and Troy Bennett kicked the extra point.
The Hawks took the lead via a six-play, 75-yard drive featuring a 23-yard run by Shepardson on an option play and Nick Bennett’s 29-yard touchdown run.
Hermon’s defense stopped a fourth-and-six play for a a three-yard gain later in the second quarter and marched 38 yards on four plays with Cody Reynolds busting 25 yards around the left end on an option play to cap it.
The Raider defense held Hermon at the 6-yard line early in the third quarter and Taylor Ackley came in at quarterback and engineered a 13-play, 94-yard drive. He completed passes of 20 and 25 yards to Farnsworth before hooking up with him on a 29-yard TD strike on fourth-and-five when two Hawk backs collided and the ball popped in the air to the alert Farnsworth.
“We worked hard, we didn’t give up and we’re proud of (our performance),” said Ragot, who was WA’s leading rusher with 55 yards on 16 carries and was also outstanding on defense as he was in on several tackles and also stripped the ball from a Hermon ballcarrier and rambled 15 yards with it to set up the scoring opportunity which was stymied by Gooley.
Gooley was Hermon’s leading rusher with 86 yards on 10 carries.
Shepardson had 64 yards on 11 carries and Reynolds had six carries for 58 yards.
Alex Urquhart and Garrett McIntyre were Hermon’s top tacklers as they were involved in 19 and 11 tackles, respectively.
Ragot and Pineo were among defensive standouts for WA.
“This is awesome. This is what we’ve worked for,” said Shepardson.