Five big plays. Those are how many plays Hylton coach Tony Lilly told his team often make the difference between winning a football game and losing it.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they found those five important plays and took advantage of a couple big breaks in coming from behind to beat visiting Mount Vernon, 35-28, Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
Without a doubt, the biggest of the five plays came with 8.7 seconds left with the game tied at 28-28, when two players whose last names sound like a law firm, helped determine the final verdict. When Mount Vernon kicker Joey Renzi attempted a 53-yard field goal with 19.7 seconds left, Devin Bowen swooped in and got a hand on the football to block it. Colby Bonds instantly recovered it at the 43-yard line and dashed 57 yards for the game winning score.
Bowen said he didn’t get too caught up in the urgency of the moment; he just knew he had to make a play for his team, especially after making a costly mistake earlier in the game that resulted in a touchdown for the Majors.
“I had to do what I do [to] redeem myself for the team,” Bowen said.
On a night fraught with frustration at times for the Bulldogs, especially on offense, it was the defense that set the tone with several other big plays. Hylton mustered just 50 yards of offense in the first half while being held to two first downs to Mount Vernon’s nine in the half. Compounding the issue, the Majors’ worst field position during a first-half possession was on their own 45.
Still, because of the four other big plays, Hylton put itself in position to win a wild game that excited fans of both teams from start to finish. The Bulldogs’ first huge play came almost immediately after Mount Vernon took a 7-0 lead after scoring on the game’s opening drive.
After Hylton went three-and-out, Mount Vernon drove from midfield to its 36 before Bonds took advantage of a botched exchange from center. When the ball came loose, Bonds scooped it up and raced 62 yards for a game-tying touchdown.
Big play No. 2 came with Mount Vernon leading 15-7 following a safety when Bond was tackled for a loss in the end zone and a 30-yard scoring pass to Aboraa Kwarteng. On the ensuing possession, the Majors had the ball at their 45 before seeing quarterback Fonnae Webb gain one yard on each of the next two plays. When Webb went back to throw, Bowen swooped in and intercepted the pass, which proved pivotal minutes later as Juanya Braxton scored on a 2-yard run that moved Hylton within 15-13.
“[The interception] was very important, man. It just set the tone for the rest of the game,” Bowen said. He added that it was “very thrilling” to block the kick that led to the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Big play No. 3 happened when Seth Harden notched a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter that led to the Bulldogs’ tying the game at 21-21 when Bonds caught a two-point conversion pass from quarterback Tyler Mitchell.
Senior wide receiver Dalontay Banks pulled off big play No. 4 when he ran a gorgeous route and hauled in a 26-yard scoring pass from Mitchell.
Banks’ TD catch again tied the game, this time at 28-28, just about five minutes after Daniel Danso gave Mount Vernon the lead with a three-yard run.
Bonds said even though Hylton’s struggled offensively in the early going, he never doubted the team.
“I knew we would find a way to pull it out. Our defense was going to come up big, or somebody on special teams was going to find a way to make plays. Some way, somehow, we were going to find a way to win it, and we did,” Bonds said, sporting a huge grin.
Even when Mount Vernon had the halftime lead, and took the lead again early in the fourth quarter, Bonds said he believed the Bulldogs defense would stiffen when it counted.
“We just knew we had to wrap up [running backs on defense], not give up anything over the middle,” Bonds said. “We knew we had to stop them because there was no way we were losing this game.”
In the end, it was the Bonds himself who found a way to win it for his teammates, with a huge assist from Bowen, who swooped in for the block at the perfect time.
“It was awesome, man,” Bowen told Bonds following the post-game interview. “I was able to get through the hole and get a hand on it.”
HYLTON 35, MOUNT VERNON 28
MOUNT VERNON (0-1) 7 14 0 7—28
HYLTON (1-0) 7 6 8 14—35
MV—Webb 1 run (Renzi kick), 9:57
H—Bonds 62 fumble return (Marquez kick), 6:28
MV—Safety (Hylton’s Bonds tackled for loss in end zone), 10:03
MV—Kwarteng 30 pass from Poreda (kick blocked), 7:26
H—Braxton 2 run (pass failed), 3:19
MV—Danso 31 run (run failed), 1:12
H—Harden 32 interception return (Bonds pass from Mitchell), 4:40
MV—Danso 3 run (Renzi kick), 11:25
H—Banks 26 pass from Mitchell (Marquez kick), 6:55
H—Bonds 57 return of blocked field goal (Marquez kick), 8.7
Rushing—Mount Vernon Danso 18-132, Webb 15-126, Hallenbeck 5-13, Reid 2-7; Hylton Bonds 12-70, Blakney 2-4, Chenault 1-(minus 2), Walton 1-(minus 2), Braxton 3-(minus 15).
Passing—Mount Vernon, Webb 3-5-1-17, Poneda 9-14-1-98; Hylton., Mitchell 7-18-1-106.
Receiving—Mount Vernon, Sarpong 5-43, Kwarteng 4-72, Clark 2-21, Danso 1-6, Reid 1-3; Hylton, Chenault 3-70, Banks 2-34, Braxton 2-2.