Green Valley coach Brian Castro made a bold decision with just two minutes left in Friday’s game.
Facing fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Castro left his offense on the field instead of trying for a short field goal.
Fortunately for the Gators, that included junior running back Noah Hawthorne, who took the shotgun handoff and plowed through the left side of the Legacy defense to give the Gators a thrilling 26-21 road victory.
“I’m scoring, for sure,” Hawthorne said. “There’s no other option. I have to score, it’s not a need, I have to.”
Hawthorne’s big night included 90 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries and catching four passes — one for a touchdown — for 27 yards.
“He’s a good guy for us,” Castro said. “He can play multiple positions on the field. He can run the ball. He can catch the ball. We’re comfortable having him out there. Any time we can find a little space for him to get him the ball, we’re trying to do that.”
But it probably shouldn’t have even come down to a final drive after Green Valley (4-1) jumped out to a 20-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Longhorns (1-4) refused to quit and rallied on the strength of two touchdown passes from Jordan Allen to Aaron Holloway to cut the Gators’ lead to 20-13 early in the fourth quarter. Jerry Martin scored on a 5-yard run to cut the lead to 20-19 before Allen connected with Cahill Laws on the 2-point conversion to give Legacy a 21-20 lead with 5:34 remaining in the game.
“They made some good adjustments and started going to the ground a little bit,” Castro said. “Truthfully, I think our defense wore down a little bit. We were a lot of three and outs with our offense, and we left those guys on the field too long. We have to do a better job of holding onto the football, moving it and keeping it on our side to give our guys a rest.”
The Gators regained some momentum on the final drive when quarterback Garrett Castro connected with Bryson Bogues for a 24-yard gain on second and nine from their own 41. The Gators converted two fourth downs on the 10-play, 70-yard drive.
On fourth and three from the Legacy 38, Garrett Castro hit Reyden Morett on a 33-yard pass down to the Legacy 5-yard line, which set up Hawthorne’s fourth-and-goal heroics.
“We practice those situations a lot,” Brian Castro said. “With the offense the way we run it, we feel like we have the opportunity to drive the field and score. It would have been nice if we could have done that more consistently throughout the game, but we found a way to get that done in the end.”
Aaron Holloway caught four passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Longhorns.