ORANGEBURG — The home faithful at Bruin Stadium were in a frenzied mood Friday night.
Although a matchup of undefeated teams, 10th-ranked Orangeburg-Wilkinson found itself in the underdog role against fourth-ranked Hanahan. The Hawks had defeated their first five opponents by an average of 42 points and were the defending Region 8-AAA champions.
Yet even as the Bruins had the Hawks in a season-high 15-0 hole at the end of the first quarter, their head coach knew the lead was far from safe.
“They’re a good football team,” said O-W head coach Tommy Brown. “Had no doubt they were going to come back.”
Brown’s words proved prophetic as Hanahan scored 28 unanswered points to rally for a 28-21 victory over the Bruins.
Quarterback Mason Schwerzler led the comeback charge for the Hawks (6-0, 1-0) with three touchdown passes to three different receivers. His counterpart Austin Bradley threw four touchdown passes and finished with 269 yards for O-W (5-1, 0-1), but was limited by the Hawks’ defense in the second half until the final drive of the contest.
“I’m glad we got in a game like this because we haven’t been in a close game,” Hanahan head coach Charlie Patterson said. “We really haven’t been behind. I was proud of the way my kids fought. I really didn’t tell them anything. We’ve got a lot of seniors and we just kept playing.”
A fourth-down stop on Hanahan’s first possession apparently lit a fire under the Bruins. Taking over at its own 35, O-W drove the football downfield to the Hanahan 36 where Bradley completed a touchdown pass to Kendell Benjamin.
The Bruins’ defense made another stand on the Hawks’ next possession when Parrish Allen intercepted a pass and returned it to the 32-yard line. O-W could not capitalize as Bradley also tossed an interception.
On Hanahan’s next possession, an errant snap flew over Schwerzler, which prompted him to kick the football out of the end zone for a safety. O-W promptly took the free kick and drove the football for another touchdown on Bradley’s 14-yard pass to Wallie Tarte.
After taking O-W’s initial shot, a regrouped Hawks made their comeback. It started with an 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive capped by Schwerzler’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Saaehim Brooks.
Kyle Spigner missed the PAT, leaving the score at 15-6 with 6:10 left in the first half.
O-W appeared headed for another score as the Bruins moved the football to the Hanahan 19. With 1:54 left in the first half, a botched exchange in the backfield resulted in a fumble recovered by linebacker Marquise Mack, who returned it 62 yards before he was tackled by Tarte.
A pass interference penalty on O-W set up a first-and-goal at the 9. Quan Wade found an open hole and raced untouched across the goal line with 1:03 left to bring the Hawks to within 15-13 at halftime.
“I told them during the week that we were playing a very good football team,” Patterson said. “We found out in the first quarter that I was right what I was telling them all week.”
The second half started with both teams exchanging fake punt attempts. O-W’s try from its own 30 was thwarted by the Hawks, who were successful on their attempt in reaching the Bruins’ 12.
A forced fumble and recovery by O-W denied the Hawks’ bid for the lead. Hanahan was not denied in the fourth quarter as Schwerzler began targeting his tall, wide receivers against the smaller Bruin cornerbacks.
Facing a fourth-and-16 in the fourth quarter, Schwerzler lofted a high pass to 6-6 senior wide receiver Terrell Green, who reeled in the catch for a 35-yard touchdown to put Hanahan up 21-15 after Quan Wade’s 2-point conversion run.
“You’ve got a guy over there that’s 6-6, you’ve got to try to get him the ball,” Patterson said. “Even if he’s covered, a lot of times he’s opened because of his size.”
As the Bruins’ offense stalled, Schwerzler completed another fourth-down touchdown pass. This time, he found an open Corbin Heyward in the end zone to extend the lead to 28-15 with 4:31 left.
O-W closed out the scoring as Bradley found Jacob Lucas in the end zone to end the game. Despite the loss, both head coaches are not convinced the Region 8-AAA was settled Friday night.
“We lost one region game, we’ve got four more to go,” Brown said. “The thing is, you’ve got to take them one at a time and take care of business and whatever happens, happens. We’ve still got a chance to win this thing. We’re not going to give up. We showed that at the end. I think we drove that ball almost 80-something yards and scored at the end. That showed a lot of character. So we didn’t quit, so we’re going back to the board and start working hard again.”
“After tonight, there will be three teams that’s 1-0, three teams 0-1,” Patterson said. “I’m glad to be one of the 1-0 teams. But we’ve still got a lot of good football left to play. I’d rather be 1-0 than 0-1, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
O-W next travels to Stall, while Hanahan plays host to Berkeley.
O-W — Benjamin 36 pass from Bradley (kick good)
O-W — Safety
O-W — Tarte 14 pass from Benjamin (kick failed)
H — Brooks 14 pass from Schwerzler (kick failed)
H — Wade 9 run (kick good)
H — Green 35 pass from Schwerzler (run good)
H — Heyward 28 pass from Schwerzler (kick good)
O-W — Lucas 10 pass from Bradley (no kick)