HARDIN VALLEY — The 2020 football season has been a long one for Hardin Valley Academy, and when the Hawks hosted Jefferson County late last week, one team was going to come away with its first victory of the season.
And by the slimmest of margins, the Hawks found their way into the win column as they edged this Region 1-6A foe 14-13 Friday night at HVA.
The Hawks (1-7 overall, 1-3 in region) had to withstand a late rally from Jefferson County (0-9, 0-5), but that made the celebration even sweeter.
The game wasn’t decided until senior linebacker Sam Simpson forced a fumble from JCHS quarterback Connor Cawood, and the Hawks’ Isaac Wilhite recovered late in the fourth quarter. From there, Hardin Valley ran out the clock.
“I saw that quarterback coming in and there was no way I was going to let him get that first down,” Simpson said. “I was able to knock the ball loose.
“It feels great to finally get that first win,” he added.
Both the Patriots and the Hawks moved the ball efficiently at times over the first 24 minutes, but both had their share of mistakes including untimely penalties and turnovers. The result was a scoreless first half.
However, things didn’t stay in a 0-0 deadlock for long after halftime.
The Hawks got on the board when Zach Passafume took the opening kickoff in the third quarter and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. John Aragon’s extra point gave HVA a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes 44 seconds remaining in the frame.
“I dropped it first, and I just took the ball and I saw the hole and I hit it and I was gone,” Passafume said. “It feels great to get this win.
“We’ve all been working hard and we were all just tired of losing. It’s just nice to get a win.”
HVA extended its advantage to 14-0 when Ryan Nichol recovered a Hawks’ fumble in the end zone with 2:39 left in the third stanza.
Jefferson County scored twice in the final frame. The Patriots pulled to within 14-7 with 7:57 left in the game, then blocked a punt that Jace Dobbins returned 41 yards to the end zone.
JCHS, however, missed the ensuring extra point and the score remained 14-13 with 3:51 left.
After the Hawks had to punt, the Patriots took the ball for the potential game-winning drive that stopped when Cawood fumbled.
Hardin Valley head coach Mike Potter said he was pleased to finally see his squad capture a victory, and noted that special teams had an impact on the contest.
“It feels good to get this win. It’s great for these kids,” he said. “They’ve kept coming in here and going to work and it’s great to see them get this win.
“That kickoff return was huge for us. Special teams can really be a game changer as you saw with Jefferson County when they made their play too.”
The Hawks return to action Friday night, Oct. 23, when they travel to rival Farragut for a region battle. Opening kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.