EAST POINT, Ga. -- Hardaway and Tri-Cities struggled last season, so Saturday's season-opener provided both teams an opportunity for a fresh start.
Tri-Cities, which went 1-8-1 last season, made the most of its start with a 33-6 win over Hardaway (2-8) in the second game of the Tri-Cities Labor Day Classic on Saturday.
Two field goals from Tri-Cities' Alex Hernandez were all of the scoring in the first half as the Bulldogs took a 6-0 lead.
The Bulldogs broke the game open early in the second half off key Hardaway mis
cues as the Bulldogs scored touchdowns on two blocked punts and a fumble in the third quarter and the first minute of the final quarter, expanding their lead to 26-0.
"Our punter and our snapper are freshmen, so it's a learning curve," Hardaway coach Jeff Battles said. "So far in practice, they're getting there. (Our punter has) a good foot but just needs to learn to get rid of it a little quicker, but he'll pick that up with experience."
It was at this point that the Hawks showed flashes of their potential with a quick-hitting five-play, 70-yard drive. The drive started innocuously enough with two straight sacks on quarterback Tyler Raleigh to lose 10 yards, but the sophomore quarterback went to work afterward.
Raleigh found fellow sophomore Ja'Kobe Ellerbee on a 50-yard pass play, with 15 more tacked on after a Tri-Cities penalty for a horse collar tackle. Raleigh then completed a 14-yard pass to junior Darius Blackmon to the Bulldog 6, then senior Troy Monroe gave the Hawks their only score of the night on a 6-yard touchdown reception.
Wiltshire added his second touchdown of the night for the Bulldogs in the game's final 63 seconds, breaking loose for a 45-yard run.
Despite the loss, Battles had some positive takeaways from the trip to East Point.
"We went into that (scoring) drive saying 'let's open it up a little bit.' We couldn't run our offense inside with them blitzing everybody, so we figured that would help us move the ball, and it did.
"We ran with them in the first half. We did a good job but we broke down a little bit toward the end. It's a learning experience. All those guys on defense are brand new. We started gelling, though. By the end of the game, they were still blitzing everybody and we started picking some of that up. With four new starters on the offensive line, these things are going to take time to come together."
The Hawks head south next week to take on Class AA Chattahoochee County in the Panthers' season-opener.
Saturday at Tri-Cities High
Hardaway 0 0 0 6--6
Tri-Cities 3 3 13 14--33
TC--Alex Hernandez 40 FG, 6:19.
TC--Hernandez 25 FG, 7:16.
TC--Antonio Wilcoxson 1 run (Hernandez kick), 9:44.
TC--Laquan Wiltshire 24 run (kick failed), 5:05.
TC--Romello Floyd 12 pass from Dominique Francis (Hernandez kick), 11:03.
H--Troy Monroe 6 pass from Tyler Raleigh (kick failed), 8:50.
TC--Wiltshire 45 run (Hernandez kick), 1:03.
Records: Hardaway 0-1; Tri-Cities 1-0. Next: Hardaway at Chattahoochee County, Friday 7:30 p.m.