MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon football team opened conference play with another comeback win on Saturday.
A week after rallying from a 17-point deficit against Birmingham-Southern, the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half and beat North Carolina Wesleyan 41-30.
Trailing 28-10 in the first three minutes of the second half, the Hawks' offense responded with 31 straight points and the Huntingdon defense clamped down. After giving up 418 yards and 28 points in the first 34 minutes of the game, the Hawks held the Battling Bishops to 106 yards and zero points in the final 26 minutes.
Sophomore quarterback Preston Samoden, in his first varsity game, passed for two touchdowns in his first two attempts and finished the second half with 217 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Otis Porter highlighted the comeback with a pair of touchdown receptions that covered 61 and 56 yards.
Records: Huntingdon (2-1, 1-0 USA South); N.C. Wesleyan (0-3, 0-1 USA South)
The Turning Point: Having just allowed a 78-yard touchdown pass and trailing 28-10, the Hawks needed a spark. Porter provided it. With Samoden taking his first varsity snap at quarterback, Porter got open, hauled in his new quarterback's pass, broke a tackle and raced 61 yards to the end zone.
On North Carolina Wesleyan's ensuing possession, linebacker Brandon Williams and defensive lineman Troy Mandris sacked the quarterback to force a fumble and defensive lineman Ryan Struck recovered it at the Battling Bishops' 33-yard line. Samoden hit Garrett Headley for a 33-yard touchdown on the next play to make it a 28-24 game
A 25-yard field goal by Chase Young made it a one-point game before Porter gave the Hawks the lead for good. On the fourth play of the fourth quarter, Porter caught a Samoden pass and went 56 yards for the touchdown and a 34-28 lead.
A 15-yard touchdown run by Dontavion Cunningham closed the Hawks' scoring with a 4:58 to play in the game and a pair of interceptions by Anthony Wood and Jarrett White helped end two North Carolina Wesleyan drives.
After reaching the Huntingdon 4-yard line, White's interception in the end zone with 2:25 to play ended North Carolina Wesleyan' final scoring threat. Backed up deep in their own territory, the Hawks took an intentional safety on their final possession.
Porter, after managing four catches for 31 yards in the first half, added 166 yards and two touchdowns in the final two quarters. He finished with eight receptions for 197 and two touchdowns. Porter's 61-yard touchdown reception and 56-yard touchdown reception helped the Hawks get back in the game and dealt a blow to the Battling Bishops. The 197 receiving yards are the third most in a game in Huntingdon history.
Williams, who entered the second half with three tackles, was around the ball throughout the second half. In the final two quarters he recorded 11 tackles, two sacks, a tackle for loss and forced one fumble.
Passing: Samoden: 9/13 for 217 yards, 3 TDs
Blaise Schillace: 12/19 for 109 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Receiving: Otis Porter: 8 receptions for 197 yards, 2 TDs
Jay Davison: 4 receptions for 44 yards, 1 TD
Rushing: Kobe Smith: 15 rushes for 93 yards
Kicking: Young: 5/5 PAT, 2/2 field goals (connected on field goals of 28 and 25 yards)
Overall: Williams: 14 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble
Jarrett White: 5 tackles, 1 interception, 3 passes broken up
Anthony Wood: 5 tackles, 1 interceptions, 2 passes broken up
Head Coach Mike Turk on his team's second straight comeback win: "We're fortunate that we have been able to fight back and win the past two weeks. There are a lot of positives there. But the reality is we have to figure out how to start the game in a better frame of mind. We're not going to be able to continue to pull out these second half comebacks.
"We have to figure something out. That's really what I challenged the guys with after the game. Obviously, we have to start faster and play better in the first half. We have to be ready to play."
Turk on the Hawks' defensive performance in the second half: "It's a credit to the guys for continuing to fight and continuing to believe we could win the game. The defense played really well in the second half. We basically gave up one big play in the second half and that was it. Other than that, we stopped them on third down, got off the field and gave the ball back to our offense. We turned the ball over to the offense in good field position and we had a huge turnover late in the end zone.
"I can't say enough about how we played in the second half. We had a lot of guys step up and do some good things for us."
Coming Up: Huntingdon plays at Ferrum on Sept. 23 at 12 p.m.