Defensive touchdowns highlight 24th-ranked Huntingdon’s homecoming win over Ave Maria

Defensive touchdowns highlight 24th-ranked Huntingdon’s homecoming win over Ave Maria

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon football team jumped out to a five-touchdown lead in the first half and downed Ave Maria 42-21 on Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd at Samford Stadium.

Running back Trevor Manuel scored three times in the first half and defensive backs Anthony White and Wykein Dean provided touchdowns on back-to-back plays from scrimmage to spark the first-half performance.

"We have to give credit to our coaches," Dean said. "They did a good job preparing us for what Ave Maria would do. Being able to do that on back-to-back plays shows how well prepared we were.

"I think we've made a lot of progress on defense. The first couple of games, we gave up some big plays but we've improved each week since then."

For both Dean and White, it was their first touchdown as a Hawk. It was also the first two defensive touchdowns of the season for Huntingdon. It was just the third time in program history the Hawks (4-1) have scored two defensive touchdowns in a game.

Larry Hudson (27-yard interception return) and Jamaal Jemison (89-yard interception return) provided defensive touchdowns against Millsaps in 2005 and Hudson (100-yard fumble recovery) and Hodge Patterson (32-yard interception return) had defensive touchdowns against Sewanee in 2006.

Saturday's defensive scores helped open up a 14-0 game in the second quarter. White forced and recovered a fumble at the Gyrenes' 39-yard line and returned it to make it 21-0 with 8:31 left in the first half. On Ave Maria's next play from scrimmage, Dean snagged Drake Sunderland's pass at the Ave Maria 34 and went the distance to make it 28-0 with 8:14 left.

"Our defense came through with two scores for us and we were able to pull away in the first half today," Huntingdon head coach Mike Turk said. "That allowed us to play a lot of guys in the second half and that was big for us. Now we have to go back to work and make sure that we're still continuing to get better."

Manuel, who entered the game tied for the NCAA Division III lead in scoring, scored on a 31-yard run, a 24-yard run and a 1-yard run. Manuel finished with 97 yards on 11 carries before the reserves took over for good early in the second half.

"We're becoming a more balanced team," Manuel said. "We're starting to see offense, defense and special teams all playing well and feeding off of each other. We've got room for improvement, but I feel good about the way we're playing.

"Today, it was great to get the younger guys in and let them get experience. You never know when one of them might be thrown into the fire. The more game experience they can get, the better it is for the whole team."

Garrett Fletcher added the Hawks' final score on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. David Ballard was 6-for-6 on extra points.

John-David Swiger turned in a team-high six tackles and the defense combined for seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and the interception.

The Hawks return to action on Oct. 6 at Millsaps.