The Holly Springs and Heritage High football teams opened the 2012 season hoping for a sunnier outlook than they had in 2011, when the young schools combined for just five wins.
Their only problem Friday was that the weather didn’t cooperate with these brighter attitudes, as continued lightning and rain postponed the season opener to Saturday. They were nearly through the first quarter Friday before the weather put a stop to things.
Both teams came out of the gate well Saturday, but the Golden Hawks defense dominated in the second half to help propel Holly Springs to a 29-14 victory.
“This morning we came in and just had to focus and get out there and play,” said first-year Hawks head coach Will Orbin. “We just needed to have a warrior mindset and overcome that adversity.”
The Golden Hawks limited the Huskies to 29 yards passing for the second half and just 22 rushing yards the entire game.
Holly Springs senior quarterback Brett Hudspeth threw for 157 yards and two touchdowns, both to classmate Evan Allen (six receptions for 57 yards), while Kelvin Wilson added a rushing score and Tyler Shade kicked two short field goals of 22 and 21 yards.
But the key play of the game was made by the Hawks’ defense at just under the eight-minute mark of the third quarter, with the score knotted at 14. Following a Hudspeth punt, which put the ball at the Heritage 5-yard line, a swarm of Hawk defenders got after Huskies quarterback Blake Walters, who intentionally grounded the ball while in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
Holly Springs scored on the ensuing possession following the free kick, on the second of Hudspeth’s touchdown passes to Allen, a 2-yarder to give Holly Springs a 23-14 advantage; the Hawks never looked back.
“I think the turning point was when we pinned them back and then came up with that safety,” Orbin said.
Hudspeth and Allen, who also connected on a 17-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 14 late in the second quarter, gave the Hawks balance to complement Wilson’s 93 yards rushing.
Senior Jerrell Herndon also gave the Hawks great field position in the second half, with punt returns of 54 and 51 yards. Elijah Reteguiz and Connor Simmons posted an interception each, while Kolani Coates and Quincy Weaver sacked Walters.
“I’m excited about the new atmosphere here, and people need to get used to Holly Springs winning,” said Hudspeth, in his first full year as starting quarterback. “Evan (Allen) is great at getting open and making the big plays for us.”
The game was scoreless when the first lightning struck Friday with 1:56 left in the opening period.
Holly Springs’ first possession Saturday resulted in an Allen 14-yard touchdown run, where the junior running back reversed direction and raced for the left pylon. Allen got 43 of the 73 yards on that drive, while a nicely thrown 23-yard slant pass from Hudspeth to Jay Kurtgeri helped keep the drive alive and allowed Holly Springs to score first.
Heritage scored twice in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead. Walters (190 passing yards) scored on a four-yard run to tie the game and then fired a 41-yard bomb to Huskies wide receiver Charles Johnson midway through the second period.
“We took the lead but they outfought us in the second half,” said Heritage head coach Jason McGeorge, whose Huskies are playing in just their second season as a varsity program. “We want to continue to lay a solid foundation and learn how to play a complete game and play well together.”
Heritage plays North Johnston next, while the Golden Hawks will travel to play Wakefield and all-star quarterback Connor Mitch, a player Orbin is familiar with from his days as Leesville Road’s offensive coordinator.
“We will need to get better in the red zone, because we’ve got to prepare well to play an explosive team,” Orbin said.