MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Mike Turk’s Huntingdon Hawks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and the fourth time in five years.
Huntingdon concluded the regular season in style by clinching the USA South Athletic Conference title in a 45-21 win over LaGrange, the final game of the regular season. The win punched Huntingdon’s ticket into the Division III playoffs where a familiar foe awaits.
“Guys are excited about being in the playoffs, being the conference champion," said Turk, head coach of the Hawks.
The 7-3 Hawks open the playoffs against the 9-1 Berry Vikings, which is exactly who Huntingdon played in the opening round of the 2017 playoffs.
"Got a tremendous opportunity. Berry’s a very good football team, one of the best programs in the South in Division III for the last several years, so a team that we’re very familiar with, guys that we know and coaches that know, and so [an] opportunity to go on the road and try to beat a very good football team it’s a lot to be excited about,” said Turk.
Back in 2017 Huntingdon went on the road and had a 10-6 lead in the second quarter over the undefeated Vikings, but Berry rattled off 21 points in the second quarter to take a commanding lead and would go on to win 34-20.
In terms of familiarity, there were a few guys on the team now who were on that 2017 Huntingdon team and made some big plays in that game, including Dontavion Cunningham, Michael Lambert and Otis Porter. Cunningham had a rushing touchdown while Lambert and Porter connected on a touchdown pass.
Now in 2019, Turk and co., are looking to reverse their fortune this time around.
“For us to be competitive and have a chance to win the game, we’re gonna have to match their level of execution and match the intensity in which they play," said Turk.
Both teams have similarly high-powered offenses but Berry’s defense is a full two touchdowns better. The Hawks enter averaging an even 36 points per game while Berry averages 36.1. Defensively, Huntingdon’s 26.3 points per game allowed is outdone by the Vikings’ even 14 points per game allowed on the season.
On matching the intensity and level of play, Huntingdon’s head coach knows it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“Won’t be easy to do, because they’re very good at what they do, but we learn a little bit each time we experience it. My hope is that we’ve taken good notes and we’re ready to go,” said Turk.
Saturday’s 2017 first round rematch kicks off at 11 a.m. from Berry, Ga.