Hawks edge Red Dragons in thriller

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 2 November 2019 at 9:27 pm

Photos by Cheryl Wertman – Holley’s Jacob Affronti breaks through the line in route to his second touchdown in this afternoon’s dramatic win over visiting Maple Grove as Kynan Egan moves in to make the tackle for the Red Dragons.

Two huge fourth quarter defensive stands in the shadow of their own goal line earned the Holley Hawks a thrilling 34-28 victory over the visiting Maple Grove Red Dragons this afternoon in a regular season ending 8 Man Football Division game.

Clinging to a slender 34-28 lead, the Hawks defense first stopped Maple Grove on downs at the Holley 12 yard line.

Then, after Maple Grove took over at the Holley 23 following a long 40 yard punt return, the Hawks defense weathered the storm stopping the Red Dragons at the 1 yard line as time expired.

“Unbelievable! Amazing!” said Holley Coach Wil Prince. “Our motto all week at practice was to ‘make this our finest hour’. And we certainly lived by that. They played hard and they really lived their finest hour.”

The dramatic finish of those two defensive stands was in sharp contrast to the game’s first half which saw the two teams combine for a whopping 56 points finishing the half deadlocked at 28-28.

Holley’s Triston McFadden registers one of his three sacks on Maple Grove quarterback Jackson Gowan.

Maple Grove jumped out to an early 8-0 lead as Ayden Reagle scored on a 4 yard run.

Holley though answered back with a pair of long touchdown runs by Jacob Affronti of 49 yards with 6:54 to go in the first quarter and of 44 yards on the first play of the second quarter. Those tallies rallied the Hawks in to a 14-8 lead as quarterback Jacob Norman added the two-point conversion run after the second tally.

That second TD set off a scoring frenzy of a total of 6 touchdowns in the wild second quarter.

In fact the teams traded five scores in a span of just four minutes.

Maple Grove went back up 16-14 on a 4 yard touchdown run by Jackson Gowan and a two-point conversion run by Reagle with 6:04 to go.

Holley answered back with  7 yard TD run by Norman at the 4:20 mark to go back up 20-16. Norman also had a pair of 18 yard pickups and Affronti a 10 yard gain to highlight that drive.

The Dragons wasted no time in regaining the lead at 22-20 just 14 seconds later as Reagle returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown.

However, that lead lasted a mere 16 seconds as on the first play after the ensuing kickoff Affronti broke loose for a 61 yard touchdown run at the 3:50 mark and Norman added the two-point conversion run for a 28-22 Hawks lead.

Once again though the lead was very short lived as Reagle scored on a 53 yard run with 2:48 remaining to retie the contest at 28-28.

After that explosive quarter the second half was dominated by turnovers and defense as only one touchdown was scored.

That lone touchdown, on a 1 yard run by Affronti with 2:28 remaining in the third period, which put the Hawks back on top at 34-28, proved to be the game winner.  Norman had a 15 yard run and a 20 yard pass completion to Tony Farruggia highlighted that drive.

(Click here to see Antonio Farruggia catch a pass from Jacob Norman and go to the 1 yard line, setting up Jacob Affronti’s  winning TD.)

(Click here to see Affronti score his 4th TD, which was the game winner.)

The Holley defense came up big forcing turnovers to halt all three third quarter Maple Grove possessions.

A big fourth down sack by Triston McFadden, his third of the afternoon, gave Holley excellent field position at the Maple Grove 31 to start the decisive scoring drive.

Cody Tanis also had a fumble recovery and an interception to stop the Red Dragons other two drives.

That set the stage for the two dramatic stands by the Holley defense which, with their backs to the wall, stopped Maple Grove first at the 12 and then at the 1 to preserve the win.

(Click here to see the final last defensive stand by Holley, preventing Maple Grove from the end zone.)

With the victory Holley finishes the season deadlocked for third place at 3-3 with both Maple Grove and Frewsburg, which nipped CG Finney 48-42 on a last second touchdown. Those results set up a coin flip on Sunday between the three deadlocked teams to determine which two will advance to the playoffs.

Oakfield-Alabama/Elba at 6-0 and Pembroke at 5-1 have already locked up the top two playoff berths.

Holley’s Cody Tanis returns an interception as Jamel Hildreth looks to block Maple Grove’s Justin Millet.