HEBRON – Alden-Hebron wide receiver Cody Nelson remembers seeing two things after taking a handoff from tight end Trevor Redlin on a reverse play.
“I saw grass. A whole bunch of grass,” Nelson said. “And then I saw our quarterback [Colten Cashmore] 20 yards downfield throwing a block. That does a lot for the team when your quarterback’s throwing blocks.”
Nelson felt obliged to do something special after Cashmore’s effort, so he raced down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown that gave the Giants their first lead against Hiawatha in the game.
It was as uplifting for A-H as it was deflating for Kirkland Hiawatha. It was the second of four unanswered Giants’ second-half touchdowns as A-H rolled to a 28-8 victory in their Northeastern Athletic Conference football game Saturday.
The victory virtually guarantees A-H (5-2 overall, 5-2 NAC) will be in the playoffs for the 10th time in coach John Lalor’s 11 seasons. Although it was more of a struggle than the score indicated.
“In the first half, we were so unfocused,” offensive lineman-linebacker Marshall Glenn said. “We had a bad week of practice, so you play how you practice. It was a rough game. It shouldn’t have been that close.”
Lalor said his team was flat after a 45-minute lightning delay before the opening kickoff. Hiawatha (3-4, 3-4) was ready to roll and running back Nick Doolittle ran for 121 of his 144 yards by halftime.
The Hawks were so proficient that Doolittle caught a screen pass from quarterback Mike Mercado on a third-and-26 and gained 30 yards.
“I told our them these guys were going to bring everything they could,” Lalor said. “They’re fighting for their [playoff] life. We didn’t play very well today. Good Lord!”
A-H tied the score when Nelson scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter and Cashmore, while slipping and almost doing the splits, flipped a two-point conversion pass to Redlin. On their next possession, Nelson took the reverse all the way on a third-and-7 play.
“It was huge,” Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said. “It got them the first down, got them momentum, got our guys upset because we had them third-and-long. We’ve had some issues trying to stop third-and-long sometimes, and it comes back to bite you. It demoralizes you as a team.”
After that point, the Hawks gained only two more first downs. A-H’s defense came up with three second-half turnovers and allowed Hiawatha only 87 total yards in the second half.
“We weren’t concerned [at halftime] scorewise,” Glenn said. “We were concerned about emotions. We didn’t want to give them life. We wanted to get up on them and put them away. We knew if they kept the game close, it would be a battle to the end. We didn’t want that.”
After Nelson’s two touchdowns, Avi Mohr and Nate Peterson each ran for a score in the fourth quarter. Running back Nick Beck missed the game with an ankle injury but plans on returning next week against North Shore Country Day. Peterson ran 20 times for 149 yards, 101 of which came in the second half.
“We just woke up finally and realized we couldn’t lose this game and get a good seed in the playoffs,” Nelson said. “[Lalor] wasn’t happy [at halftime], but he knew we could come back and do it.”
Because NAC schools play only conference games, the Giants are guaranteed 40 playoff points, which should be ample for making the playoffs. They finish with Country Day (1-6) and Ottawa Marquette (7-0).