Need perspective on what Hardaway coach Michael Woolridge has brought to the Hawks football program?
The Hawks’ win total in 2016 after their 16-10 victory over rival Columbus Friday night at Kinnett Stadium: 3.
Hardaway’s win total combined from 2013 to 2015: 3.
Just two seasons removed from a winless 2014 campaign and coming off a 1-9 showing last year, Woolridge has his Hawks believing in themselves.
It wasn’t any more apparent after a Carlton Williams touchdown late in the third quarter gave the Blue Devils a 10-7 lead. The Hawks clawed back into the game in the fourth quarter, with Tyler Raleigh scoring on a 20-yard run to give Hardaway the lead for good.
“We had a good offseason. We trained and we conditioned them hard, and we told them to keep fighting and keep grinding,” Woolridge said. “We were down 10-7 going into the fourth quarter, and the guys grinded it out. They never quit. That’s the difference in this year and last year.”
“It was great,” Raleigh said. “My line did everything for me to get the touchdown, and I just want to thank them.”
Woolridge and the Hardaway staff made a change in the locker room at halftime after the Blue Devils kept them off the scoreboard in the first half with a stout defense between the tackles.
“They were stuffing us up the middle, so we made some adjustments and started going off tackle a little bit and sweeping it outside to the perimeter,” Woolridge said. “It was a good halftime adjustment by our coaches.”
The Hawks improved to 1-1 in Region 1-4A after dropping their opening region game 46-13 on the road at Cairo last Friday. It was Hardaway’s first game in three weeks as their Sep. 2 game at Lee County was cancelled due to the threat from Hurricane Hermine, followed by a bye week.
“It definitely threw us off,” Woolridge said. “Going down to Cairo, it was good competition, and we hadn’t played in three weeks.”
Meanwhile, on the Columbus end, head coach Phil Marino lamented on his Jekyll and Hyde offense so far this season. The Blue Devils have put up 108 points in their two wins but just 17 points in their three losses.
“We have to be able to throw the football a little bit more, and we didn’t do that well tonight at all,” Marino said.
Hardaway was able to get a late safety in the fourth quarter as the defense came up with three huge sacks on Columbus quarterback Caleb Bailey, pinning the Blue Devils deep in their own territory. On fourth down, punter Ty Lucas muffed the snap out of the end zone for a safety.
“We have a sophomore quarterback, and you can’t take three sacks back there,” Marino said. “Then we had the bad snap (on the punt).
“I tip my hat off to (Hardaway). That’s a good defensive football team, but we just didn’t do what we had to do to win.”
Both teams look to improve to 2-1 in the region next week as the Hawks face Westover on Thursday night and Columbus plays Northside on Friday night, both at Kinnett Stadium.
“It was good to get a game back today, and we have a game next week, so it’s good to get back in a groove,” Woolridge said.
“We just have to go to work on Monday and get back to a winning record in the region against Northside. We just have to take one at a time and come back next week, see if we can get a win before the bye week, and go from there,” Marino said.
Key play: Hardaway was able to put together an 11-play drive that chewed up five minutes of clock in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Tyler Raleigh scored on a 20-yard run, giving the Hawks a 14-10 lead over Columbus.
Difference makers: Hardaway – Tyler Raleigh, RB, 7 rushes, 52 yards, TD; Antonio Campbell, RB, 2 rushes, 2 yards, TD, INT; Marco Lee, RB, 12 rushes, 81 yards. Columbus – Karlton Williams, 4 rushes, 38 yards, TD; Ty Lucas, 11 rushes, 51 yards, 1 catch, 12 yards; Terrance Dixon, 6 rushes, 54 yards.
Coach quote: “It’s awesome. We’ve got two rivalries with Harris County and Columbus, and we got both of them this year. That’s big, but we’re not done yet. We’re not complacent. We’re not content. Our goal is to get in the playoffs, so we still have work to do,” said Hardaway coach Michael Woolridge.
Player quote: “I want to thank everybody that came out in support. If it wasn’t for the crowd and my teammates, I wouldn’t have scored,” said Hardaway running back Tyler Raleigh, who had a 20-yard fourth quarter touchdown run to put the Hawks up for good.
Friday at Kinnett Stadium
C – Patrick Kitchens 24 FG, 8:43.
H – Antonio Campbell 2 run (Freddy Zamudio kick), 6:02.
C – Karlton Williams 30 run (Kitchens kick), 2:18.
H – Tyler Raleigh 20 run (Zamudio kick), 4:34.
H – Safety (ball snapped out of end zone), 2:46.
Records: Hardaway 3-1, 1-1 Region 1-4A; Columbus 2-3, 1-1. Next: Hardaway, vs. Westover at Kinnett, Thursday, 7 p.m.; Columbus, vs. Northside at Kinnett, Friday, 7:30 p.m.