It wasn’t the high school football debut sophomore quarterback Connor Hawkins dreamed of, but when his teammates at Howard High School needed him most, he delivered.
Hawkins struggled for most of the game, but on fourth-and-5 early in the fourth quarter, the young signal caller perfectly executed a play-action pass to Will Simmons for an 18-yard score to lead the Lions to a 19-14 season-opening victory over Reservoir on Friday night.
“Coming into the game, we were kind of nervous,” said Hawkins, who is one of almost 20 first-year starters for the Lions. “We’re almost all first-year starters, but we came out and executed to get the win like Howard does."
Quarterback Connor Hawkins talks about Howard football's 19-14 win over Reservoir. Hawkins threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Despite Hawkins missing on five of his last six pass attempts, offensive coordinator Tony Reid had trust in the young quarterback in a tie game to execute the play fake to draw the Gators’ safety up and throw a strike to his tight end.
“We’ve gone over (play-actions) in practice a bunch of times,” said Hawkins, who completed 7 of 17 passes for 57 yards. “I saw the safety fly down, and I hit my man Will Simmons in the stomach.”
Howard head coach Ross Hannon said he was proud of Hawkins for stepping up on that play.
“Connor has all the tools to be a great player,” Hannon said.
Both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter, as two of the first three possessions ended in turnovers. Reservoir (0-1, 0-1) fumbled on its first drive, and Hawkins threw an interception a few plays later. Howard’s Malik Willis recovered the Gators’ fumble, and Jalen Jasmin intercepted a fourth-down pass in the end zone for Reservoir.
Early in the second quarter, Howard (1-0) drew first blood when sophomore running back Brady Cheung barreled for a 4-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.
“Brady is a heck of a football player,” Hannon said. “He’s a tough kid. He powered that one in.”
“The players played tough,” Cole said. “We’ve got great athletes on the field at safety and corner.”
With about three minutes left in the game, Reservoir was almost in the red zone with a chance to take a one-point lead with a touchdown and an extra point after Howard elected to go for two following Hawkins’ touchdown pass.
However, Brown’s pass was intercepted by senior defensive back Colin Hunter, who sprinted 89 yards for a touchdown.
Hunter, who played football his freshman and sophomore year but took last season off, said he couldn’t have imagined his return to football going the way it did.
Brown found Cotton for an 8-yard score with about 30 seconds left, and Howard recovered the onside kick to clinch the win.
Junior running back Alex Rebaza led all players on the ground with 21 carries for 97 yards for the Lions. Brown finished his day completing 17 of 34 passes for 140 yards, while Reservoir wideout Nico Tulloch caught five passes for 51 yards.
Howard plays at South Hagerstown next week, while Reservoir hosts Long Reach.