GULFPORT — Hancock (7-0, 1-0) scored on a 65-yard pass on its third snap of the game, and that was only the beginning of the big plays the Hawks would make on their way to a 42-26 win over West Harrison (4-2,0-1) to open region play on Friday night.
Dylan Moran connected with Neil Acker over the Hurricanes’ secondary for the first touchdown.
The Hawks’ defense would reward the offense by not allowing a first down on the Hurricanes’ next possession. This gave Hancock excellent field position. The Hawks were 40 yards away from their next score.
Moran passed to Todd Dedeaux for 16 yards before hitting Jeffrey Hopgood from 5 yards out on fourth-and-goal to put the Hawks up 14-0 with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Moran would connect with Acker early in the second quarter on a 37-yard scoring toss to give the Hawks the lead at 21-14 after West Harrison had tied the game at 14. And with almost five minutes to play in the period, Moran would find Acker again, this time for a 36-yard play to the Hurricanes’ 1-yard line. Zach Gullung would take it in
from the 1 to put the Hawks up 28-14, which was the halftime score.
Kaleb Schaefer had been quiet in the first half, but he got the Hawks going in the second half as he returned the second-half kickoff 82 yards to extend the Hancock lead to 35-14.
“We stressed to them day to day, rep to rep, game to game, we got to go 1-0 this week,” said Hancock coach Neil Lollar. “I’m proud of the way our guys competed tonight. We had some things tonight that didn’t go our way, and that was self-induced. But I’m proud of the way our guys handled it and fought to the end.
“Big plays were key. We’ll take ’em. We were able to hit ’em early. Defense played a lot of snaps tonight. That’s one of those things we’ve got to take advantage of, and that’s what we did tonight.”
The Hawks closed out their scoring with big back-to-back rushing plays by Gullung, who broke free of tacklers for 38 yards early in the fourth quarter. Then he followed that play with a 35-yard scoring run.
The final Hancock score was set up by a Tyran Ramsey interception near the end zone to stop a scoring threat by West Harrison.
Sam Powell was successful on all six of his PATs for the Hawks.
The West Harrison rushing attack was on full display as the Hurricanes were effective punching the ball at the line of scrimmage. Trey Harris put the Hurricanes on the scoreboard with a burst through the middle of the line and then he outraced the Hawks on a 75-yard run to put West Harrison within a touchdown at 14-7.
The Hurricanes recovered a Hawks fumble on the ensuing possession, which gave them excellent field position at the Hancock 21-yard line.
West Harrison would score three plays later on an 8-yard run to tie the game at 14.
On their first possession of the second half, the Hurricanes put together a seven-play, 71-yard drive that was capped by a Robert Magee 7-yard carry for a touchdown. They trailed 35-20 after the PAT failed from 35 yards out due to a personal foul penalty that backed the attempt up 15 yards.
Trey Harris closed out the Hurricanes’ scoring with a 13-yard touchdown carry. The 2-point conversion pass failed.
Hancock will host George County next Friday night and West Harrison will travel to Picayune.