Susan Moore found one and rekindled its flame of hope after two heartbreaking losses.
The visiting Bulldogs scored two first-quarter touchdowns and held Saks to fewer than 75 yards over the first three quarters to grab a 26-7 victory that spoiled the Wildcats’ homecoming.
“We felt like we were in it the whole game,” Saks coach Clint Smith said. “We just needed a spark and it’s like we never could get that spark to get us going.”
The Bulldogs (1-2) found something. They lost their first two games by three points each despite holding leads in both. They lost last week on the final play of the game.
On this night, however, quarterback Justin Hawkins threw for a touchdown and ran for two more as the Bulldogs opened a 12-0 halftime lead and 19-0 early in the fourth quarter and never let it go.
“I refer to it as a candle they just keep trying to put out, but it just keeps coming back on,” Hawkins said. “We played hard and I like it. We’re a young team and some of these boys became men.”
Hawkins opened the scoring with a 19-yard pass to Corey Snell, then scored on a 5-yard run 24 seconds before the end of the quarter. It stayed a 12-0 game until Hawkins scored on a 38-yard tournament run 90 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Hawkins completed 17 of 28 passes, including one to himself, for 212 yards against Saks’ young secondary.
The Bulldogs held a 14-0 lead in their opener and led Piedmont with less than three minutes to play.
The Wildcats (2-1) appeared poised to mount another comeback on the Bulldogs when Corpio Dennard broke off a 39-yard touchdown run two plays after Hawkins’ long scoring run. Up to that play, the Wildcats had 86 yards of total offense — all on the ground.
“We were hoping that would be the spark that got us going,” Smith said. “We just made too many mistakes tonight. Susan Moore had some tough breaks the past couple weeks with their two losses, but they put it all together tonight.”
It got even more dramatic when Saks’ Xavier Dennard recovered a fumble on the next possession.
But Susan Moore reclaimed the momentum when Phillip McEvoy intercepted Cordarius Cooper’s fourth-and-6 pass from his own 20 and returned it 32 yards for a Bulldogs touchdown.
“I think that ended the game for us,” Susan Moore coach Bryan Jennings said. “It feels great because all that matters at the end of the year is Ws and Ls — that’s all that makes the playoffs. We needed one bad tonight and we got it.”
Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.