PELLA — The Class A Lynnville-Sully Hawks invaded the Class 1A Pella Christian Eagles’ territory Friday, and even though the Hawks put a scare into the Eagles, the home team was able to come away victorious, 17-12.
After the teams traded punts early on, Pella Christian was able to strike first on a 70-yard touchdown run by Dillion Branderhorst on a designed end around. Branderhorst took the ball around the right side and was untouched down the sideline on his way to the end zone.
The Hawks had a brief answer when Bailee Samson had a strong return on the ensuing kickoff to give the Hawks great field position. However, a fumble on a designed option put the ball back in the hands of the home team, killing Lynnville-Sully’s drive before it got started.
On the very next play, senior Mason Howerzyl carried the rock up the middle for a 56-yard run before he was dragged down at the three yard line. Miles Wichhart took the ball off of the left tackle on the next play to put the Eagles ahead 14-0.
As the first quarter ended, it appeared the Eagles had taken control of the contest, and even though the Hawks had flashes of big plays, mistakes here and there killed early opportunities. To open the second quarter, Hawks’ coach Mike Parkinson thought it might be time to try something a little bit off the wall, and it paid off.
Quarterback Brandon Dunsbergen threw a quick pass behind the line of scrimmage to receiver TJ Cunningham, who proceeded to launch a pass down the middle of the field to a wide open Darin Hofer. Hofer spread his arms wide in jubilation as he crossed into the end zone.
“We practice trick plays like that quite a bit,” Parkinson said. “When it works, it’s able to kind of lift us up. That was a situation where I felt like we needed to take a chance, and it paid off for us.”
The Eagles blocked the Hawks’ extra point attempt, but it was clear that this would not be the blowout that the score had suggested just a couple minutes earlier.
After a Pella Christian punt, Dunsbergen threw a pass off his back foot that floated into the middle of the field. Out of nowhere came a diving Branderhorst, who was able to scoop up the ball millimeters before it touched the turf for an interception.
PC’s excitement would be short-lived, though. The Hawks’ Samson recovered a fumble on the first play of the Eagles’ drive to give the ball back to L-S. The Hawks sustained a solid drive, but it sputtered out in PC territory. On a fourth and 16 from the PC 30 yard line, Hofer caught a pass and did all he could to get to the first down marker, but he came up a couple yards short of the first down.
Pella Christian opened the second half with the football, and they capitalized. A 15-yard pass from Colten Collins to Branderhorst brought PC down to the L-S 20-yard line. The drive stalled, but the Eagles came away with a field goal, pushing their lead to two scores, 17-6.
The Hawk struck quickly on the next possession. Samson took a 41-yard rush down to the PC 33-yard line, and a quick screen pass to Sage Ehresman pulled the Hawks within five points. The Hawks did not convert on their two-point conversion attempt, meaning field goals were likely out of the picture the rest of the way for them.
On the next L-S possession, Samson’s 15-yard run followed by a nine-yard rush by Caden Doll brought the Hawks all the way down to the 12-yard line. On fourth and six, Dunsbergen was forced to throw a pass under extreme pressure, and it fell incomplete.
With just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and starting quarterback Collins sidelined with an apparent injury, PC faced a third and 16. Freshman quarterback David Kacmarynski scrambled for 34 yards to keep the drive alive. Five minutes later, PC punted the ball back to the Hawks.
With the ball at their own 11 yard line and the odds against them, the Hawks fumbled the snap, giving the ball back to PC for good.
“I think we experienced some growing pains as a football team,” Parkinson said. “We needed to eliminate some of our mistakes, and maybe that’s a game with a different outcome.”
The Hawks were resilient to say the least, and their coach was proud of how they responded after falling behind early.
“We were right in the game,” he said. “We hung in there, and I was proud of my guys for that. Last year, there were some games where maybe we let things get out of hand because we got down on ourselves, but the guys dug their cleats in. At halftime, we still has a shot, but PC just made some more plays.”
L-S definitely showed of its team speed, but some players were caught out of position at times, according to Parkinson, which led to some big plays by the Eagles.
Coming up next for the Hawks will be a home matchup against Edyyville-Blakesburg on Friday. The Hawks took down E-B 21-0 last season, and having the Rockets at home may put L-S back on the winning path.
As for the Eagles, they will head to Monroe for a matchup with the 1-0 Prairie City-Monroe Mustangs. The Eagles dominated this matchup last season, winning 44-6. With the Eagles coming off a tough game and heading on the road, PCM will look to turn that around on Friday.