THROOP — Two times, Mid Valley was on the cusp of grabbing the lead in the fourth quarter.
Both times, Hanover Area’s defense stood tall and proud.
The Hawkeyes forced a fumble on the 1-yard line, and with two minutes left in the game, held off MidValley after the Spartans had a first-and-10 in the red zone as Hanover Area opened with a gritty 12-7 victory.
It wasn’t the prettiest of games. Hanover Area head coach Ron Hummer will admit it.
And yes, his Hawkeyes sure didn’t make it easy on themselves – turning the pigskin over two times deep in their own territory in the final 12 minutes.
The defense, though, was enormous.
“Our defense never gave up, and there was plenty of adversity in this game,” Hummer said. “I’m proud of the kids for fighting. We have some work to do heading into next week. It was a sloppy game, but hey, we won. The turnovers were terrible, and it really put too much pressure on the defense.
“The kids stood their ground and they fought, especially on defense. They really showed their pride.”
Early in the fourth, a fumble gave Mid Valley possession on the Hanover 34. The Spartans, thanks to a 16-yard keeper by quarterback Martin Walsh, drove all the way down to the 3-yard line. Two plays later, the defense forced Joshua Gorton to fumble near the end zone as the Hawkeyes’ Stephen Morgan hopped on the ball.
Even when it looked like a victory was secure, it wasn’t. While running out the clock, Hanover put the ball on the turf and Mid Valley alertly jumped on it.
Again the defense was up to the task. A big 5-yard tackle-for-loss by Shaun Jones, and a tipped pass by Elido Veras set up a fourth-and-16 from the Hanover 21. The line got pressure on Walsh and forced him out of the pocket and into an errant pass.
The rest of the game belonged to Hawkeye senior back Brian Belcher, who ran for a game-high 117 yards and two scores.
“We worked our hearts out all summer,” he said. “I think we had a chip on our shoulders heading into this season, and we never let our heads get down in this game.”
Belcher’s 2-yard short burst up the middle gave Hanover a 6-0 lead in the second quarter. Later he scored on a 40-yard shovel pass from Jake Peters after Hummer elected to go for it on a fourth-and-5 from the Mid Valley 40.
“That was an amazing play,” Belcher said. “We did it twice in practice, and it was a good play, but I didn’t think we would do it in a game. It worked in practice, but it was different in a game.”
Mid Valley, which was held to less than 100 yards of total offense, scored its lone points on the opening kickoff of the second half when Gorton caught the ball on the 16-yard line and went nearly 84 yards untouched for the score.
The Spartans, though, only had four plays go for more than 10 yards and were held to two yards or less on 18 of their 31 rushing plays. Walsh and Tyler Shay split time at quarterback, completing just 2-of-19 for 31 yards.
“Our kids never got down, and that was good to see,” Mid Valley first-year head coach Dave Rebar said. “I thought we played hard on both sides of the ball. Defensively, I thought we really did play well. We just had to make a few more plays, and we didn’t do that. “
Hanover Area 12, Mid Valley 7
H — Brian Belcher 2 run (kick failed), 6:29
H – Belcher 40 pass from Jake Peters (pass failed), 2:01
M — Joshua Gorton 84 kickoff return (Tyler Collins kick), 11:45
Team statistics`Han Area`Mid Val
RUSHING — HA, Brian Belcher 28-117, Elido Veras 3-36, Mike Kremenic 1-0, Isaiah Taylor 1-(-2), Jake Peters 2-(-8), Team 5-(-10). MV, Tyler Collins 12-31, Martin Walsh 4-34, Joshua Gorton 7-17, Justin Kline 3-5, Tyler Shay 5-(-24).
PASSING — HA, Jake Peters 5-15-81-1. MV, Martin Walsh 1-14-17-0, Tyler Shay 1-5-14-0.
RECEIVING — HA, Isaiah Taylor 3-33, Brian Belcher 1-40, Elido Veras 1-8. MV, Ryan Kenny 1-17, Tyler Collins 1-14.
INTERCEPTIONS — MV, Ryan Kenny.