Huntingdon surges in second half to beat Westminster

FULTON, Mo. --- Huntingdon pounded out a school-record 784 yards of total offense and used 34 second-half points to erase a two-point halftime deficit, as it defeated Westminster 53-34 on a record-setting day at Priest Field.

In the contest, the Hawks (5-1) recorded 343 yards on the ground and 441 through the air. Huntingdon also had two players rush for more than 100 yards, senior Alex Baronich and freshman Trevor Manuel, and two players tally more than 100 yards receiving, sophomore Cody Pearcy and senior Steven Laye, for the first time in school history. In addition, the 441 yards passing by senior Justin Ridgeway (finished 22-of-39) bettered the school-record by three yards, while sophomore Keith Anthony matched the single-best effort with two interceptions.

"This was a very sloppy ballgame," head coach Mike Turk said. "We obviously executed some things very well, but we turned it over way too much. Thankfully our defense was able to make some plays and force some turnovers and that really helped us."

Defensively, Huntingdon forced six turnovers, including interceptions on the first three possessions of the second half for the Blue Jays (3-3). The Hawks converted the picks into 14 points and erased a 21-19 halftime deficit. Baronich made Westminster pay after the first pick with a four-yard touchdown run, making the score 26-21 with 13:16 remaining in the third quarter, and giving Huntingdon its first advantage of the game

"It seemed like they really took over the game," Turk said of the defensive effort in the third quarter. "The two turnovers that they forced to start the third quarter really set the tone for the rest of the ball game. We were able to score on both of those and really started to execute better offensively."

Manuel added to the lead with a four-yard rushing score following a pick from senior Ahmaad McClaney, making the score 33-21, and giving the Hawks some breathing room.

Baronich, who finished the day with 183 yards on 28 carries, added two fourth-quarter touchdowns, while Ridgeway connected with Pearcy for a 19-yard touchdown strike midway through the fourth quarter to complete the second-half scoring for the Hawks. Pearcy finished the game with nine catches for 148 yards, while Laye added five catches for 144 yards.

In the opening period, Huntingdon fell behind 14-0 after the first 14 minutes, but Laye scored on a 79-yard reception to get the Hawks on the board with 0:27 remaining.

Sophomore Parker Roberts pulled the Hawks to within one 14-13 with 12:39 left in the second quarter, but the extra point try was missed. Following a score by the Blue Jays, Roberts scored just seconds before the intermission to pull the Hawks within two points.

Looking for an offensive boost in the first half, Turk looked to Manuel and was pleased with the way he responded. Manuel finished the opening half with six carries and 81 yards

"He played very well," Turk said of Manuel. "He made some big catches for us and took care of the football on the ground. It wasn't the most conducive field for a shifty guy like him, so I was proud to see him do as well as he did."

For the game, Manuel finished with 119 yards on 13 carries, the first 100-yard game of his career. The duo of Pearcy and Laye became the first Huntingdon tandem to each eclipse the 100-yard since Mark Colson and Jacob Godwin recorded the feat against Colorado College on Oct. 14, 2006.

Defensively, Anthony finished with eight tackles, while senior Chas Worthy and sophomore Kaleb Futral each added seven tackles, including 2.0 for loss by Worthy. Junior Quinn Hambrite finished with four tackles and four of the Hawks' 15 pass break ups. Senior Chad Hatfield recorded six tackles, including one for loss, forced a fumble, recovered another, and broke up two passes.

Blue Jays quarterback Daniel Edison finished the game 36-of-72 for 425 yards and three scores, but was intercepted four times. Carl Givens led the team with 12 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

Huntingdon will return to action on Saturday, when it hosts Greenville College for Homecoming at Samford Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.