When the Huntland High School’s football team took the offensive side of the ball at this past Friday night’s scrimmage one thing became clear, these Hornets aren’t afraid to fly.
Often known for being a ground-and-pound style team, the Hornets displayed a more balanced attack, taking a few shots through the air in shortened scrimmages against two District 9-A foes, Fayetteville City High School and Forrest High School.
Though not always connecting, the attempts through the air caused opposing defenses to respect the pass, resulting in some open running lanes for running backs.
The Jamboree was held in Chapel Hill, displaying varsity teams from Forrest School, Fayetteville and Huntland. A 12-minute non-continuous clock was set with the Hornets taking on Forrest first, then the Fayetteville Tigers for just one quarter each.
Both quarters ended with Huntland behind 14-7, but the scrimmages were more about the play than the final score.
Huntland began with the ball first against Forrest, and mounted a drive, then took the back road to the end zone.
At times it seemed the field was solid yellow, as referee flags were a constant sight during the drive.
Beginning at the 15-yard line, Huntland gained its initial first down with a swing pass from quarterback Evans Ray to wide out Kobe Foster.
Rising sophomore D.J. Taylor then put the drive into effect with a punishing 4-yard run, setting up a 36-yard sweeping run by wingback Cameron Mahaffey.
The drive almost came to a halt following Mahaffey’s big run, as the Hornets faced a fourth-and-fifteen. Turning to the air, Ray found Mahaffey who advanced the ball to the 5-yard line.
From there things got a little sloppy on both sides of the ball with the boys in stripes tossing flags left and right.
First, a hold was called on the Hornets, shortly after causing a second-and-goal from the 15-yard line. Efforts weren’t helped any when a false start moved the Hornets five more yards in the wrong direction, resulting in a second-and-goal from the 20-yard line.
The third second-and-goal was run and initially looked to be an interception by the Rockets, following a tipped pass. Fortunately for the Hornets, a personal foul was called on the Rockets for a late hit, which gave Huntland another chance offensively.
Now with the ball at the 10-yard line the Hornets turned to the powering Taylor, who dragged three players across the goal line for a touchdown. Ensuing with the extra point, the Hornets led 7-0.
With 8:41 remaining on the clock, the Rockets wasted little time answering back. Starting at the 10-yard line, Forrest earned a first down on the ground to the 20-yard line before connecting on a swing pass that was took 80-yards for a touchdown.
Now with the score tied 7-7, Huntland retook the field and was determined to score, but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards.
Taylor began the drive with a 14-yard run for a first down. Mahaffey and Taylor each carried the ball the next two plays and looked to have a first down, but after a measurement, their effort was nearly half a yard.
Huntland then attacked through the air, but to no avail as the ball fell harmlessly to the turf.
With excellent field position Forrest capitalized, scoring on a goal line run with just 3:38 remaining in the contest to make this score 14-7 in favor of the Rockets.
The Hornets finals offensive possession of the contest was limited to just one first down, followed by a quick punt.
With 37.1 seconds remaining in the contest, the Rockets just let the clock run out, sealing the lid on the Hornets’ loss.
After a short break, Huntland retook the field, this time against the Fayetteville Tigers.
The Tigers opened up the contest with a long balanced and methodical offensive drive that resulted in seven points for the Tigers.
Trailing 7-0, Huntland answered back with the help of its ground game. Taylor started the drive off with consecutive runs combining for 10-yards and a first down.
Mahaffey followed with a 29-yard run out to the Tiger 41-yard line. Taylor pounded the ball for another run of 12-yards, setting up another big run for Mahaffey who caught some nice blocks on his way to a 29-yard touchdown run. The run made it two 29-yard scampers for Mahaffey in the same drive.
With the score knotted up at 7-7 with just 5:31 left, Fayetteville connected for a big offensive play.
The Tigers turned to the air and connected on a deep pass to jump ahead 14-7.
With 2:33 remaining on the clock, the Hornets trailed by seven — an eerie resemblance to the previous scrimmage.
Although this time around Huntland still didn’t score, the second-team offense did move the ball.
Runners Blain Maxwell and Logan Davis combined to gain 36 yards and three first downs before time expired on the final drive.
At the conclusion of the Jamboree, Hornets’ coach Bob Robertson said that the team, “learned a lot about ourselves tonight.”
Pleased with the effort he saw from his team, Robertson didn’t have any negatives to take away from the Hornet’s performance.
Despite falling to both teams 14-7 in the single 12-minute quarter, Robertson said he wasn’t too worried on the outcome.
“We didn’t prepare for any of this,” he said. “We’ve been preparing for Cornersville.
“This stuff doesn’t get you into the playoffs.”
Robertson and his Hornets will kick-off the regular season this Friday night when they travel to Cornersville to take on the Bulldogs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.