The fireworks after Friday night's football game at North Harford were planned well in advance as part of homecoming festivities, but they put a perfect exclamation point on the Hawks' victory.
Although slow to get going, the Hawks offense featured a handful of firecracker ball handlers, who ran their team to a 41-20 victory over Aberdeen in a key Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division contest in Pylesville.
Quarterback Nic Hammer said he feels confident no matter whom he hands the ball to.
"We have an entire arsenal of great athletes on this team. We knew that coming into this season. There's a lot of talent and we have so much depth," said the junior, who ran 12 times for 81 yards and was 4-for-10 passing for 90 yards, a touchdown and an intercption.
Eric Bayer led the Hawks' rushing attack with 17 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown. Josh Welsh had six carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Campbell ran 11 times for 59 yards and a touchdown and also caught two passes for 68 yards.
The Hawks (3-2, 1-0 conference) led 5-0 on a game-opening safety and Sean Bowling's 28-yard field goal, but the Eagles (2-3, 1-1) and their big-play offense took a 13-5 lead early in the second quarter.
North Harford finally took control with four straight touchdowns on runs by Bayer, Campbell and Welsh and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hammer to Nick Tittle. Welsh's first touchdown, a 23-yard run, gave the Hawks a 34-13 lead with 8:03 left in the game, putting them well on their way to avenging last season's regional championship loss to the Eagles.
Going into halftime, Bayer capped a 98-yard drive with a 4-yard scoring romp and the ensuing conversion run to tie the score at 13. After the break, the Hawks needed only three plays to take the lead for good, going 65 yards for a 20-13 edge on Campbell's 24-yard run up the middle.
"We were struggling picking up blocks and we got there late," said Aberdeen coach Johnny Brooks, last year's All-Metro Coach of the Year. "That touchdown before the half when they scored on that 98-yard drive, that gave them momentum and kind of took a lot of wind out of us. If we'd scored, it might have been a different game, but I don't know because we didn't stop them that well in the second half."
With 6:57 to go, Eagles running back Dante Warfield (15 carries, 201 yards, two touchdowns) cut the lead to 34-20 on a 45-yard touchdown run, but the Hawks used up the next five minutes and Welsh converted a 24-yard run to put the game out of reach.
"Sometimes we come out a little flat. It's like our worst enemy," Hammer said, "but when we get our momentum, we're pumped up, ready to go and like you saw in the second half, we came out and got the momentum right away and from there on, it was our game."
A 7 6 0 7 -- 20
NH 5 8 14 14 -- 41
NH—Bowling 28 FG
A—Briggs 3 run (Whittie kick)
A—Warfield 60 run (kick failed)
NH—Bayer 4 run (Bayer run)
NH—Campbell 29 run (Bowling kick)
NH—Tittle 11 pass from Hammer (Bowling kick)
NH—Welsh 23 run (Bowling kick)
A—Warfield 34 run (Whittie kick)
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NH—Welsh 24 run (Bowling kick)