Heritage led a charmed life in the first quarter Friday night and rode the early advantage to a 24-10 win over Green Hope.
Malcolm Lewis returned the opening kickoff 75 yards to the Green Hope 20. The Huskies nearly squandered the chance before wide receiver Thayer Thomas hauled in a 31-yard TD pass from Gunnar Holmberg on fourth and 21.
“That was a great momentum starter,” said Holmberg, who threw for 176 yards and three touchdowns. “I got sacked that drive, we had some penalties, and we came out with a touchdown and that got the momentum going.”
On their next series, a successful fake punt led to Brandon Felton’s 10-yard TD catch and a 14-0 lead.
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The Huskies also blocked a field goal and recovered a muffed Green Hope punt in the first quarter.
Holmberg tossed his third TD pass of the first half with 3:48 to play, when Zach Gemmell hauled in a 16-yard reception for a 21-0 lead.
“The team is focused around Gunnar,” said first-year Heritage coach Dewayne Washington. “There’s no doubt about that. We wanted to get him off to a good start. He made some excellent throws early in the game that really got him into a rhythm.”
Holmberg spread the ball around to five different receivers. Thomas led the corps with five catches for 65 yards and Gemmell had three for 56.
Green Hope cut the deficit to 21-7 with 59 seconds remaining in the first half. Brendon Mayo scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 13-play, 77-yard drive for the Falcons.
Leading 21-10 with 9:57 to play, the Huskies chewed nearly eight minutes off the clock before Parker George hit a 25-yard field goal with 2:08 to play. Isaac Burton carried much of the load to help melt the clock, and he finished the night with 65 yards on 17 carries.
Green Hope compiled 343 yards of offense, largely on the shoulders of tailback Trevor Losito (98 rushing yards, 54 receiving yards).
But Heritage was able to keep the Falcons out of the end zone the entire second half. The Falcons had to settled for a field goal after a 12-play, 4:37 drive in the third quarter. And defensive back David Blackmond sealed the victory with an interception to end the game.
“I’ve told the guys, nine times out 10, we’re going to win the game on defense,” Washington said.