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Holly Springs stays perfect, edge Green Hope with game-winning field goal

Payton Sowers, right, of Holly Springs is set up by Adam Gruden, left, to hit the winning field kick in the last seconds of the game. The Green Hope Falcons visited the Holly Springs Golden Hawks in a high school football game on September 9, 2019.
Payton Sowers, right, of Holly Springs is set up by Adam Gruden, left, to hit the winning field kick in the last seconds of the game. The Green Hope Falcons visited the Holly Springs Golden Hawks in a high school football game on September 9, 2019. newsobserver.com

For 47 minutes and 57.3 seconds, Holly Springs traded punishing touchdown drives with Green Hope’s explosive scoring plays. Finally, with 2.7 seconds remaining, a 5-foot-11, 135-pound kicker decided the affair.

Holly Springs sophomore Payton Sowers was big enough on this night as he booted a 21-yard field goal to lift the Hawks (3-0) to a 29-28 victory over Green Hope (2-1) in a non-conference game Monday that had been postponed from Friday due to Hurricane Dorian.

“It feels amazing to win a game like that,” Sowers said. “That was my first game-winner. I just did what I do in practice.”

Sowers, who had a kick blocked earlier, kept his composure over three delays. Holly Springs faced fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line when it initially lined up.

First, Green Hope’s coaches called timeout twice to ice him. Then, the Falcons’ defense was called for encroachment. The ball was moved to reduce Sowers’ field goal to an extra-point attempt.

“That didn’t bother me at all,” Sowers said of the timeouts. “That gave me time to relax.”

Green Hope had taken a 28-19 lead with 11:42 left in the game when running back Joshua Hullum converted a broken play into a 41-yard touchdown run. On a third-and-9 low shotgun snap to quarterback Evan Ashworth, Hollum scooped up the ball and ran down the left sideline virtually untouched.

But Holly Springs responded with a nine-play, 64-yard that John Fraello finished with a 28-yard touchdown catch from sophomore quarterback Brock Willis.

With the Hawks trailing 28-26, their defense forced a three-and-out, but Green Hope’s punt pinned the Holly Springs at its 6-yard line. The Hawks faced third-and-7 from their 9-yard line before Green Hope helped the Hawks out of the hole.

Willis hit Dylan Waskey with a 34-yard pass and on a play that included another 15 yards for a roughing the quarterback.

With a first-and-10 from Green Hope’s 42, the Hawks positioned Sowers for the game-winner. Junior running back Derek Coombs finished with 34 carries for 238 yards and three touchdowns, but he didn’t mind watching a kicker win the game.

“We had confidence in him,” Coombs said. “For him to come out and win the game means a lot to us.”

RECORDS: Green Hope (2-1) at Holly Springs (3-0)

THREE WHO MATTERED:

(Holly Springs - Derek Coombs) The junior running back was a work horse with 12 carries for 64 yards in the first quarter, 18 for 119 by halftime and 25 for 193 after three periods. He has the look of a Division I running back with his ability cut and break tackles. He said he’s heard early recruiting interest from North Carolina, East Carolina and Georgia.

(Holly Springs – Shane Perry) The junior senior linebacker was in on so many tackles, the Holly Springs public address announcer began referring to him as “Tackle by that man again.”

(Green Hope - Tavaras Vann) The senior wide receiver caught only two balls, but they were both good for touchdowns. He caught a 51-yard score over the shoulder in the first quarter and out-positioned the defensive back in the front corner of the end zone for a 27-yarder in the third period.

WORTH MENTIONING

--- Holly Springs had success on one of its two short pop-up kickoffs toward the sideline when a Green Hope player mishandled the ball and the Hawks recovered. But to open the third period, the Falcon’s Michael Odette was ready. He fielded the ball cleanly and cut across the field left to right for a 65-yard touchdown kickoff return that was good for a 14-13 lead.

--- Green Hope faced a 4-and-44 punting situation as a result of two sacks and penalty yards assessed differently in high school from college and pro. The lost 34 yards were the result of a 10-yard penalty assessed from the spot of the foul on a pass play. The loss was followed by Austin Stroup’s 7-yard sack and Ed Kunas’ tackle six yards behind the line of scrimmage. Green Hope’s 35-yard wasn’t enough for a first down.

Scoring summary

--- HS – Derek Coombs 2 run (Payton Sowers kick)

--- GH – Tavaras Vann 51 pass from Evan Ashworth (Owen Zale kick)

--- HS – Derek Coombs 5 run (kick blocked)

--- GH -- Michael Odette 65 kick return (Owen Zale kick)

--- GH – Tavaras Vann 27 pass from Evan Ashworth (Owen Zale kick)

--- HS – Derek Coombs 33 run (run failed)

--- GH – Joshua Hullum 41 run (Owen Zale kick)

--- HS – John Fraello 28 pass from Brock Willis (Payton Sowers kick)

--- HS – Payton Sowers 20 FG.

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