Harrison went on to beat Kennesaw Mountain 38-7 in the latest Battle of the Bell between the Due West archrivals at Cobb Energy/Mustang Stadium on Friday.
Keegan Karim returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, setting the stage for Harrison (4-2, 3-1 Region 4AAAAAA). The Hoyas led 21-0 at halftime and added 17 more points in the third quarter.
“In all phases of the game (Friday), we came out and played well,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “We’ve been very inconsistent at different times at one level or another, at one phase of the game or offensively. Special teams started us with a bang and, defensively, we played really well.”
Hayden Messina rushed for 107 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns to lead the Hoyas, who improved to 10-2 all-time against the Mustangs (1-4, 0-4).
Karim delivered the opening blow for Harrison as he caught the opening kickoff at his own 5-yard line and broke a couple of tackles around the 20 before sprinting down the field to the end zone for his kickoff return. Jonathan Hutson added the extra point kick to make it 7-0, just 14 seconds into the game.
Harrison got a big opportunity when it recovered a Kennesaw Mountain fumble at the Mustang 28-yard line with 3:54 remaining in the first quarter. Messina scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 5-yard run five plays later, and Hutson added the extra point to increase the Hoyas’ lead to 14-0 with 2:22 left.
Kennesaw Mountain turned the ball over again when Alex Portwood intercepted a Nigel Hayes pass and returned the ball to the 50-yard line with 11:00 remaining in the first half.
Harrison, however, was unable to convert as Hutson narrowly missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt with 8:09 left.
The Hoyas were able to score on their next offensive series as Messina’s 32-yard touchdown run and Hutson’s kick increased their lead to 21-0 with 2:44 left in the first half.
Harrison extended its advantage even further early in the second half as Lorenzo Nunez threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Drevon Jones and Hutson kicked the extra point to make the score 28-0 with 9:43 remaining in the third quarter.
The Hoyas recovered another Kennesaw Mountain fumble at the Mustang 49 with 8:52 left in the third quarter, and scored four plays later on an 8-yard run by Nunez. Hutson again made his kick for the extra point, boosting the lead to 35-0.
Kennesaw Mountain fumbled yet again on the ensuing kickoff and Harrison recovered at the Mustang 25 with 7:09 left.
The Hoyas were able to get a field goal out of their opportunity as Hutson converted his 26-yard attempt to make it 38-0 with 6:16 left.
“We missed one field goal, but it was a pretty long one,” Dickmann said. “I wanted to get (Hutson) out there again to give him another chance, and I was glad to see him get the next one.”
Kennesaw Mountain finally got on the scoreboard midway through the fourth quarter as it completed a 12-pay, 85-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Hayes and an extra point by Chris Wink to help the Mustangs cut their deficit to 38-7 with 6:06 left in the game.