MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon football team knew the challenge it was up against Saturday.
Facing fifth-ranked Wesley College in the first meeting of Top-25 teams at Samford Stadium, the 16th-ranked Hawks battled the Wolverines evenly for three quarters.
But Wesley scored 21 unanswered points and took advantage of three Huntingdon turnovers in the final 16 minutes to take a 31-21 victory.
"I told the guys after the game, there's nothing I can say that's going to make them feel better," Huntingdon head coach Mike Turk said. "The reality of it is we didn't get it done. But in my mind, we did accomplish something.
"I'm proud of our guys because we believed we could win against a team we've never beaten before. It was very obvious our guys believed we could win and we could have won. We had our shots, but we made some mistakes and they took advantage of them."
The win was the fifth for the Wolverines (7-1) in five games with Huntingdon (5-2). But unlike the first four meetings in which Wesley outscored the Hawks 181-58, Huntingdon kept the Wolverines off balance for much of the game on Saturday.
Huntingdon jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first 16 minutes of the game, scoring on a 2-yard run by Trevor Manuel in the first quarter and a 35-yard Neal Posey-to-Austin Worley touchdown pass in the first minute of the second quarter.
At the half, the Hawks led 14-3.
Wesley cut it to 14-10 early in the third quarter, but the Hawks answered with a 1-yard touchdown run by Manuel to make it a 21-10 game with 3:14 left in the third quarter. The rushing touchdown, Manuel's 16th of the season, tied the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season and was the 43rd of his career.
But from there, the game began to swing in the Wolverines' favor. Wesley quarterback Justin Sottilare connected with Matt Bundy for a 51-yard touchdown strike to make it 21-17 with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Huntingdon's five possessions ended with two punts, two interceptions and a fumble. Following one Huntingdon interception, the Wolverines went 35 yards in six plays to take their first lead of the game, 24-21. Wesley capped the drive with a 7-yard pass from Sottilare-to-Jeremiah Howe with 9:46 left in the game.
Wesley added its final touchdown after a Huntingdon fumble with 6:45 left. Eugene Byrd's 6-yard scoring run made it a 10-point game. The Wolverines ended Huntingdon's final threat with an interception at the Wesley 21-yard line with 2:07 to play.
Linebacker Zach Brownell led the Hawks' defense with 12 tackles and defensive back Anthony White had nine tackles and blocked a field goal. Linebacker John-David Swiger and defensive tackle D.J. Chappell both finished with six tackles. Chappell, Brandon Van Camp and Cordarryl Jones each had one sack and senior Mark Patterson blocked a punt.
Huntingdon returns to action against Point University at noon on Nov. 3. The game will be played at Valley High School.