When senior kicker Chris Sato sent a 22-yard field goal through the uprights to cap Hillsborough's opening drive against Class 6A-District 8 opponent Armwood on Thursday, it was hard to believe 3-0 would be the final score, but 40-plus minutes of football later and the Terriers had held on for the win against the three-time state champs at home.
In the game's aftermath, longtime coach Earl Garcia said he has been inundated with at least 50 phone calls and text messages from well-wishers. He said he heard from former players, fellow coaches and friends. He even got a call from a former player from 30 years ago whom he had not heard from in decades.
A lot of the credit has to go to a sophomore who never made the end zone but kept the Terriers offense running all night — quarterback Dwayne Lawson.
Lawson had 235 total yards, including 27 carries for 114 yards. After the game, Lawson said he couldn't remember carrying the ball that many times at any level of football.
"Coach said he was going to call my number a lot of times tonight, but this is crazy," Lawson said. "I played little league and I didn't carry the ball that many times. And that was more yards (gained) tonight than I had the whole season."
Though hyperbolic, he's close to being right. Before Thursday night, he had 38 carries for 115 yards, one more yard than he had against the Hawks.
The Terriers' win came just six days after Hillsborough (6-1, 4-1 in 6A-8) dropped a tough one-point game, 23-22, to Sickles. The Hawks will have an equally tough challenge ahead as they prepare for defending 8A state champion Plant on the road Friday.
Hawks coach Sean Callahan said his young Armwood team has a lot of work to do to put away this loss and move forward, but regardless it would be a learning experience for his team.
"I've been with teams like this before that are young and inexperienced," Callahan said. "You just have to get through the tough times. I've always told you if you're going to beat Armwood High School, this is the year to beat us. Every third or fourth year, it's going to be like this."
He added that this would be a good week to see how his team was going to respond to a tough loss.
"We're going to find out real quick," Callahan said. "We play a great team (four-time state champion Plant on Friday)."
In Hamilton we trust
For Durant coach Mike Gottman, Thursday's 38-28 win over Newsome was about who would make the fewest mistakes.
Fortunately for his now 7-0 Cougars, it was the four-turnover advantage the team had that was the big difference.
And of course once Durant has the lead, Gottman has more often than not been able to take a breath as he knows he can then hoist his team's hopes onto the sturdy frame of Jamarlon Hamilton.
Hamilton's 957 rushing yards this season probably aren't going to shatter any county records, but his consistency, especially late in the game, to make holes where there are none, to find space and explode, and most importantly, to find first-down markers and brutally stretch out drives has Gottman all smiles.
"Jamarlon Hamilton is a stud and one of the best running backs I've ever coached," Gottman said. "He's tough and gritty and a true workhorse for us."
Hamilton, who averages 8-plus yards a carry, has found the end zone 13 times this season, including twice against Newsome (11- and 13-yard runs).
"He's going to get positive yards," Gottman said. "When we have to get first downs, he seems to be the guy to do it."
"They'll have him bottled up and he finds a way to squirt through and get 4 or 5 yards when it looks like he was stopped at the line of scrimmage. He has an uncanny ability to get positive yards."