This Region 2-1A showdown was an instant classic as both teams fought and clawed for four quarters, but at the end of the night a goal line stand from the Hornets and a missed 20-yard field goal attempt from the Hawks secured a 22-20 victory for JFK.
"It was a do-or-die situation,” JFK head coach Sheldon Hodge said. “The game was on the line, and we think we are a team of character and of course we know Shaw is a team of character, but tonight our character really showed up and we superseded when we had to.”
With the win the Hornets improved to 3-2 overall with a 2-0 mark in the Region. The Hawks fell to 2-4 with a 1-2 mark in the region.
Hodge felt his team prepared hard all week for the contest, and it gave him everything and left it all on the field.
"This was a situation tonight where we gave our very best and we preach that if you give your best effort you will win more often then you lose,” Hodge said. “We had opportunities to lose, but we didn't and that's what matters.”
The Shaw defense started the game and forced a three-and-out from JFK.
On Shaw's first offensive possession, the Hawks marched down the field with runs from Reggie Scott and Justin King that had the Hornets’ defense on skates.
Andre Pruitt connected with Travelle Ware for a 23-yard pick up down to the Hornets five-yard line. Two plays later Scott punched it in from two-yards out with 4:59 remaining in the opening quarter to cap off an 11 play, 62-yard drive.
The point after failed, but Shaw led 6-0.
Following punts from both teams, the Hornets regained possession and put Carnez Gant and Xavier Roberts to work in the backfield.
The duo led the Hornets down field with strong runs, but no run was as big on the drive then Gant's 40-yard run that was also helped out with a face mask called on the Hawks to give the Hornets the ball on the 40-yard line.
Four plays later, Gant marched on an eight-yard touchdown run to finish off a seven play, 67-yard drive. Xavier Roberts added the two-point conversion for an 8-6 lead with less than 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Hornets’ defense stood tall on the Hawks’ next possession and forced another punt. JFK was driving the football again, but the drive was cut short when Ladarious Johnson fumbled the football near the Hawks’ bench after a 14-yard run. Shaw's Jerris Westmoreland recovered the ball to put Shaw back in business.
The Hawks couldn’t do anything with the ball and punted it back to JFK. On the Hornets’ first play Roberts fumbled and Shaw recovered the ball near midfield.
The Hawks came out and moved the ball through the air and on the ground as Pruitt took over the drive. With the time ticking down to end the first half, Shaw was on the three-yard line, but on fourth-and-goal the Hornets’ defense would not bend nor break as they turned the Hawks away to end the first half with an 8-6 lead.
The Hawks took possession to open the third quarter, but JFK's Ricky Fleming intercepted an intended pass from Pruitt to Octavius Stimmage to end the Hawks' drive.
The Hawks’ defense stopped the Hornets’ offense initially and forced a punt. The Hornets had something else in mind as they executed a fake, which resulted in a 34-yard run from Roberts to set JFK up with a first-and-10 on the Hawks' 39-yard line.
"He has the option there to throw the ball to a receiver if he's uncovered or run it if they lose containment. He (Roberts) executed it well and picked up the first down. That was a big play," said Hodge.
A few plays later, Roberts scored on a three-yard run with 5:00 left in the third. Roberts added the two-point conversion for a 16-6 lead.
The score from JFK sparked something good in the Hawks’ offense, which put together a strong 10 play, 50-yard drive that ended with Justin King scoring on a one-yard run with 47-seconds remaining in the third quarter. The conversion attempt failed, but the Hawks had closed the gap to 16-12.
The Hornets’ offense took over the football on the 43-yard line after a procedure penalty on the Hawks and on the first play Gant broke lose on a 57-yard run and with 31 seconds left in the third quarter, he stepped across the goal line for the score. The conversion attempt failed, but JFK held a 22-12 lead.
"I've been saying all the time that (Carnez) Gant is a hidden gem. He is a Division I talent playing at a 1A school. He's not getting much attention, but with the game on the line there's no one I would rather have in my defensive backfield or my offensive backfield than Carnez Gant. He is a wonderful player and he makes things happen," said Hodge.
The Hawks weren’t fazed by the Hornets’ big play ability as the game rolled into the fourth quarter. Shaw drove the ball, and with 10:01 remaining in the game Pruitt connected with Stimmage for a 16-yard touchdown pass. King added the two-conversion for a 22-20 score.
As the game continued to progress, both teams continued to battle hard and the Hawks’ defense did what they had to and got the ball back to their offense.
The Hawks’ offense went to work and with 2:50 remaining, Shaw was faced with a fourth-and-seven. Pruitt was able to pick up the first down as he scrambled for 11 yards to the Hornets’ 14-yard line.
The Hawks continued to pound the ball with King, which pushed the ball down to the three-yard line.
With the seconds ticking away, the Hawks tried to punch the ball in, but the Hornets’ defense would not give as they stopped the Hawks each time.
With 18 seconds left, the Hawks elected to attempt the 20-yard field goal, but Pruitt pulled the ball to the left to end the Hawks’ chance at victory.
Gant led the Hornets with 135 rushing yards on eight carries with two touchdowns, followed by Roberts with 91 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.
Pruitt completed 8-of-19 passes for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Shaw. He also rushed 63 yards on 14 carries. King ran for 83 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown, and Scott rushed for 22 yards on seven carries with a touchdown. Stimmage had three catches for 45 yards with a touchdown and
Keveon Shepherd, Jr. 25 rushing yards on three carries and caught three passes for 38 yards to aid Shaw.
Lerandel Allen led the Hawks with 14 tackles with a sack and a fumble recovery, followed by Ware with 11 tackles and Justice Clay with eight.
JFK will host St. Aloysius at 7 p.m. Friday for homecoming, and the Hawks will face Ray Brooks at 7 p.m. Friday in Benoit.