HARDIN VALLEY — It was a roller-coaster ride of a season for the Hardin Valley Academy football team. The Hawks missed the playoffs but they won’t soon forget their 2017 finale Thursday, Oct. 26.
Hardin Valley darted to a 22-point first-half lead against Farragut only to fall behind — but ralled in the closing seconds to capture a dramatic 37-36 victory before a packed and spirited house on Senior Night at HVA.
The game wasn’t decided for the Hawks [5-5 overall, 3-3 in Region 1-6A] until quarterback Grayson Vaughn connected with Travis Griffin on a 2-point conversion with 8.2 seconds remaining. The 2-point play followed a 17-yard touchdown pass from Vaughn to junior Noah Moro that cut the FHS lead to 36-35.
The dramatic win wasn’t quite enough to propel the Hawks into the Class 6A playoffs, but it was a milestone victory for the program. It was the 50th victory in varsity team history — and it helped erase some bitter memories, including a 42-3 loss to rival Bearden at BHS Oct. 20.
“It was more about pride than anything,” Hawks head coach Wes Jones said. “We’ve had some rough patches this year. We got our brains beat-in last week but we came out here tonight and put it all on the line.
“We couldn’t have had a better Week 11 and I’m extremely proud of our football team. We’ve got 50 wins and we’ve had some great kids in nine years of varsity football.”
For Vaughn, the win versus FHS [8-2, 4-2] was especially sweet.
“Every single guy on the field fought hard tonight,” he said. “We came out with energy and this was a breath of fresh air for this whole football team.
“I have to give glory to God because I couldn’t have done any of this without Him.”
“I wanted to go for two because I wanted to win the game right then,” Moro said. “I figured that we could make it and I figured that we could win.”
After HVA scored the eventual game-winner, the Admirals had one play to attempt to earn a victory, but Cartez Campbell intercepted Gavin Wilkinson’s long pass.
Running back Aaron Dykes connected with Campbell for the game’s first score, on Dyke’s halfback option pass that covered nine yards with 7.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter. A two-point conversion attempt failed.
Hardin Valley’s defense forced Farragut into two first-half turnovers as Campbell and Cameron York each intercepted Wilkinson, who also surrendered a safety when he was sacked in the end zone to make the score 15-0 with 10:46 remaining in the second quarter.
The defensive score followed a 3-yard scoring plunge from Dykes. The senior running back also closed out the first-half scoring with a 6-yard run at the 10:25 mark.
FHS head coach Eddie Courtney said his the Admirals struggled to execute early on.
“We came out and we just didn’t play our best football early,” he said. “But you really have to give credit to Hardin Valley. It was their Senior Night and this is a rivalry game.
“But our kids showed what kind of character they have with the way they fought back,” Courtney added.
The Ads scored the only points of the third frame on a short run by junior Josh Moses late in the quarter.
Isaiah Gibbs opened the scoring 15 seconds into the final quarter, pulling the Admirals to within 22-14 with a 16-yard scamper.
The Hawks would answer and go up 29-14 when Vaughn threw a 17-yard scoring strike to Campbell with 10:31 to play. That appeared to put things away — but Farragut had other ideas.
Wilkinson threw a 14-yard TD pass to Braden Collins. He fired one more touchdown pass, to Jaden Gibbs, which knotted the game at 29.
Moses gave the Ads a 36-29 lead on a 15-yard run with 1:20 to go.
That would set up Vaughn’s late-game heroics.
“This win was big for us,” Vaughn said. “We’ve had a tough year but this is a great way for us to end our season.”