MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon Hawks took a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter on Saturday. But four Huntingdon turnovers in the final 15 minutes helped Adrian College rally for a 17-16 win at Samford Stadium.
A win on Saturday would have kept Huntingdon's playoff hopes alive.
"I don't know that I've ever been more disappointed in an outcome. This was a special group. What these seniors accomplished here in four years was impressive and I hate it ended the way it did," Huntingdon head coach Mike Turk said. "We played well enough to win for most of the game, but we didn't play well in the fourth quarter. We turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter and when you do that, most of the time you're not going to win.
"You have to give credit to Adrian. They've got a good team and they don't give up. They did what they needed to do today and they definitely took advantage of our mistakes. That was the difference in the game."
Huntingdon (6-3) turned the ball over three times in its first eight offensive plays of the fourth quarter. Each turnover helped set up Adrian (9-1) points.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Adrian's Kevin Kleine picked off a Neal Posey pass at the Huntingdon 5-yard line and returned it to the 1-yard line. Running back Kyle Smock scored one play later and after the two-point conversion, Adrian trailed 16-8.
On the Hawks' second possession of the quarter, Adrian forced a fumble at the Huntingdon 40. Dustin Salliotte's 43-yard field goal made it 16-11 with 10:32 to play in the game.
On Huntingdon's next possession, an apparent incomplete pass was ruled a fumble and Adrian recovered the ball at the Huntingdon 34. The Bulldogs scored in eight plays as Aaron Tenney connected with Antoine Mason on an 8-yard touchdown play. Adrian's two-point conversion attempt was no good and the Hawks trailed 17-16 with 6:38 left in the game.
Huntingdon's final three possessions ended in a punt, an interception and a turnover on downs.
"This hurts. We had too many mistakes and we turned the ball over too many times late in the game," Huntingdon running back Trevor Manuel said. "You can't do that against a good team. If you do, they're going to take advantage like Adrian did."
Manuel finished the day with a career-high 169 yards rushing on 31 carries. His 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, his 17th rushing touchdown of the season, gave Huntingdon a 6-0 lead and gave Manuel the Huntingdon single-season record for rushing touchdowns.
Manuel also scored the Hawks' second touchdown, hauling in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Posey late in the third quarter. David Ballard kicked the extra point after the second touchdown and kicked a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Huntingdon's defense turned in a strong performance, holding Adrian to eight first downs and 157 yards of offense on 62 plays. The Bulldogs rushed for 12 yards on 31 carries.
Anthony White, D.J. Chappell and Zach Brownell led the defense with six tackles apiece. White also picked off a pass, giving him a team-high four interceptions this season. Chappell recorded one sack, giving him nine for the season, and two tackles for loss.
"It's been a pleasure to play with so many great guys here at Huntingdon," Chappell said. "I know the senior class learned from the guys that came before us and I hope the younger guys can learn from this and go on to accomplish better things than we did."