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Harrison Central falls to Gates Mills Hawken

Photo/SANDI THOMPSON HARRISON CENTRAL’S Jonathan Vermillion (34) runs with the ball Friday night.

CADIZ – After a short week of preparation and a long bus ride, Coach Brian Stephenson and his Gates Mills Hawken football team wasn’t looking to spend any more time than it needed to in Harrison County Friday night.

The Hawks recovered a Harrison Central fumble inside its own five-yard line midway through the fourth quarter before going on a game-winning, 14-play drive, that included three fourth down conversions, one from its own 12-yard line and another on the final play of the march to pull out the stunning victory.

Senior quarterback Terrence Robinson II threw four touchdown passes, including a 58-yard bomb with just 1:28 to play for the final margin, and Hawken used big plays all night long to hold off the Huskies and record a heart-pounding 34-27 victory Friday night at Wagner Field.

Coach Anthony Hayes’ Harrison Central squad lost for the third consecutive outing after winning its first two games, allowing three touchdowns of more than 50 yards last night.

“This is going to be a crazy year with a lot of ups and downs, but kudos to our kids for dealing with some unusual circumstances in figuring out who we were going to play and also for some of our younger kids for stepping up (Friday) with about eight kids out with injuries,” Hayes commented. “The older kids did an outstanding job also, but I am proud of all of these kids.”

The Huskies used special teams to make a difference all night long with senior Jonathon Vermillion setting up great field position with a pair of long kickoff returns and junior Jace Madzia pinning the 3-2 record Hawks deep in their own territory with punts and kickoffs the entire contest.

Harrison Central built a 14-13 halftime lead, thanks to a pair of touchdown runs from senior Nathan Bertolino and pushed that count 20-13 at 7:37 of the third on a 10-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Hayden Cassidy to Vermillion, with the run after failing.

However, the visitors got an 11-yard scoring toss from Robinson to Johnson at 5:47 to cut the margin to one. Hawken went for two, and the lead, but came up short.

Johnson, who had been bottled up most of the game, busted off an 80-yard run at 1:15 with Robinson II adding the bonus run for a 27-20 advantage. After a long Vermillion kickoff return Bertolino scored his third touchdown of the game with a 31-yard bust exactly 1:01 later and the teams headed to the fourth quarter knotted at 27-27.

The Huskies mounted a nice drive, going 59 yards in seven plays, moving all the way to the Hawken one-yard line, but with the scent of victory in the air the hosts coughed up the football, turning it over at the four with 7:42 showing, setting up the Hawks long, final drive.

Sitting at its own 42, and facing a fourth-and-11, Robinson dropped back to pass and threw the ball deep down the middle to a wide open Ben Elenin, who was streaking down the field, for the game-winner.

“Their quarterback (Robinson II) is a heck of an athlete, and the running back (Johnson) is very good as well,” Hayes said. “My hats are off to them. But we played a lot better than in our last two games and special teams did so much to keep us in this one. There were just so many things that we did right (Friday), and that is what makes this one sting so bad.

“We did a good job against Johnson most of the night, and we knew what he was capable of, and that 80-yard touchdown run really hurt us. Those two players are just so good, and we knew it was going to be hard to shut them down all night long.”

Bertolino finished with 21 carries for 140 yards and three touchdowns while Johnson had 21 totes for 172 and a score for the Hawks and Robinson II threw for 213 yards and four touchdowns.

Hawken outgained Harrison Central by a 472-282 margin.

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