Harris County saw Hardaway jump out to an early lead, but the Tigers rebounded and held off the Hawks 28-21 at Kinnett Stadium.
Hardaway falls to 2-7 (0-4) on the season, while Harris County moves to 5-4 (4-0) heading into next week's showdown at Thomas County Central for the region title.
"You have to give Hardaway credit -- they came out and hit us in the mouth and jumped out to a lead," said Harris County coach Tommy Parks. "Our kids responded and didn't panic and got out of here with a win."
Hardaway moved the ball its first possession. On third down at the Harris County 30, quarterback Blake Berry's pass caromed off a Tiger defender's helmet and bounced some 10 yards back toward the line of scrimmage and into the hands of defensive lineman Quinten Rogers to kill the threat.
"There is a lot of luck in this game sometimes and on that play, we just didn't have any," said Hawks' coach Jeff Battles.
The Hawks did not go away. After forcing a punt, Hardaway took over at its own 34 and mounted an 11-play scoring drive. Berry sneaked in from one yard away for the score. David Scott added the point-after, and with 35 seconds left in the first period Hardaway led 7-0.
A fumble on the ensuing kickoff quickly put Hardaway in position to score again. They did so in just one play as Berry lofted a perfect pass to Tetris Sweat in the right corner of the endzone. The point-after was blocked and Hardaway led 13-0 with two scores in a 10-second span.
The Tigers answered quickly, riding the back of running back Esaias Chapman, who would gain 71 of the 80 yards on the drive, scoring on a six-yard run with 8:45 to play in the half. Isaac Grimes added the kick to pull the Tigers within a touchdown at 13-7.
After a Hardaway punt, the Tigers took over again at their own 20. Less than two and-a-half minutes later they were in the endzone. On third down from the Hardaway 41, Justin Wright lofted a screen pass to DiQuan Roberts and the senior did the rest, following his blocking for the touchdown. Grimes' kick gave HCHS a lead they would never relinquish.
Harris County scored on its first two possessions of the second half. Chapman ran into the endzone for his second score of the night from four yards away to cap a four-play drive. He again did the brunt of the work on the drive, gaining 58 of the 61 yards. Grimes booted the point-after and the Tigers led 21-13 with 7:35 left in the third.
After holding Hardaway on downs, the Tigers mounted a 17-play drive to get an important insurance score. The drive was kept alive by a roughing-the-kicker penalty and resulted in Chapman's third touchdown. This one came from three yards away with 9:41 left, and with the kick the Tigers led 28-13.
Hardaway came right back and made things interesting. Justin Crawford ran the offense from the Wildcat formation and marched the Hawks 72 yards in 12 plays. He kept from one yard out for the score. He also ran in a two-point conversion and with 3:41 left it was 28-21.
Hardaway very nearly recovered a perfectly executed pooch kick, but the Tigers were able to get on the loose ball. Three first downs ran later, Harris County ran out the clock to earn the win.
Chapman ended the night with 245 yards rushing on 33 carries and the three scores. Crawford led Hardaway with 135 yards on 25 carries.
Friday at Kinnett
Harris Co. 0 14 7 7--28
Hardaway 13 0 0 8--21
H - Blake Berry 1-yd. run (David Scott kick), 0:35
H - Tetris Sweat 17-yd. pass from Berry (kick blocked), 0:25
HC - Esaias Chapman 6-yd. run (Isaac Grimes kick), 8:45
HC - DiQuan Roberts 41-yd. pass from Justin Wright (Grimes kick), 2:19
HC - Chapman 4-yd. run (Grimes kick), 7:35
HC - Chapman 3-yd. run (Grimes kick), 9:41
H - Justin Crawford 1-yd. run (Crawford run), 3:56
Records: Harris County 4-4, 3-0 Region 1-AAAAA; Hardaway 2-6, 0-3. Next: Harris County, at Thomas County Central, Friday, 8 p.m.; Hardaway, vs. Northside, Thursday, 7 p.m., at Kinnett