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Hawkins stays calm to lead Howard football over Reservoir

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.

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“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.”

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The two teams then traded turnovers again later in the second quarter. Reservoir’s Darius Ellerbe forced a fumble and Josias Bordon recovered it, and Howard’s Coby Robinson intercepted Malcolm Brown.

Varsity scores and stats from around Howard County on Friday, September 6, 2019.

After entering halftime trailing 7-0, the Gators came out of the locker room hot. Brown eluded two Howard defensive linemen and connected with Bordon for a 54-yard catch-and-run score.

Except for a few mishaps in the secondary, Hannon said he was “impressed with his defense.” The Lions’ front-seven was constantly in the backfield, which took away the Gators’ rushing attack.

“The run game was tough,” said Reservoir head coach Bryan Cole. “We struggled up front. Howard’s (defensive)-line is pretty big, and their ends are quick."

Hawkins’ game-winning touchdown pass came after the Lions had a 26-yard field goal blocked by Reservoir’s Jalen Jasmin.

Jasmin, along with the Gators’ secondary of Ellerbe, Bordon and others, “kept (the Gators) in the game,” according to Cole.

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River Hill football opened its 2019 season on September 6 with a win over rival Atholton in Clarksville.

“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.

“Earlier today I was talking about it, just saying the ‘what ifs,’ but I didn’t really think it would happen,” Hunter said.

“Welcome back to the party, Colin,” Hannon said. “I couldn’t be happier for Colin. He made the play of the game.”

A preview of the 2019 Howard County football season, including a look at the top storylines around the area and team-by-team players to watch.

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.

Box score

Howard 19, Reservoir 14

Ho — 0 7 0 12 — 19

Re — 0 0 7 7 — 14

Second quarter

H: Brady Cheung 4-yard run, Camren Kovach kick [7-0]

Third quarter

R: Malcolm Brown 54-yard pass to Josias Bordon, Beckett Leary kick [7-7]

Fourth quarter

H: Connor Hawkins 18-yard pass to Will Simmons, Cheung run failed [13-7]

H: Colin Hunter 89-yard interception return, Rebaza run failed [19-7]

R: Brown 8-yard pass to Justin Cotton, Leary kick [19-14]

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