As Atlee’s Tye Burris ran untouched through the middle of the field for an all but game-ending punt return touchdown, the air was taken out of the Hanover players and fans. The disappointment that came with the Hawks falling to 2-3, the first losing record since the school’s first few years, was quelled with a defining homecoming win one week later against Henrico.
Against Atlee, the Hanover offense was unable to get much of anything going, with their lone redzone appearance coming early in the first quarter. The Hawks turned the ball over on downs, and never saw another scoring opportunity.
The Hanover defense held the Raiders in check for most of the game with the exception coming with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Atlee quarterback Reid McCoy connected with Daniel Glymph on the sideline for a big gain setting up a goal line touchdown run by Hanover transfer Lamont Stubbs. Atlee sealed off a 14-0 win Burris’ punt return touchdown.
The Hawks’ lone punt coverage blunder overshadowed a series of great special teams play all game. Punter Christian Unger forced the Raiders deep into their own territory multiple times, including a 55 yard punt from his own goal line. Hanover also blocked two field goal attempts.
Seven days later, the Hawks’ defense showed up again. They held Henrico scoreless for their second shutout of the season in a 15-0 victory.
“The mindset coming into the game was that we had to execute and keep doing things right,” sophomore defensive lineman Tanner Lacey said, “Everybody has to do their individual job in order for the team to be successful.”
Hanover scored early in the first quarter on a Brooks Coombs 43-yard touchdown run, but the offense was held in check for the remainder of the game. Coombs finished the day with 103 yards including the long touchdown run.
The loss against Atlee provided an extra bit of fuel and motivation for the team to end the three-game losing skid.
“You can’t lose to Atlee, but it happens so we had to bounce back,” senior captain and cornerback/wide receiver Josh Harris said.
Harris and the rest of the Hawk defense recorded a third quarter safety after the offense turned the ball over on downs inside the Henrico 10- yard line. The defense allowed just 60 yards of total offense in the game.
“Our defense always makes it a mission to make a statement,” Lacey said, “Definitely after our third consecutive loss we wanted to make a statement.”
The defense all but sealed to game when they stopped Henrico on fourth down on the Henrico 13 yard-line with a little over seven minutes remaining in the game. Jalen Elliot punched it in on a 3-yard touchdown run a few plays later.
“The win gave us some more confidence and kind of put us back on our feet,” Lacey said.
Hanover got back on a winning streak, and improved to 4-3 with a 47-30 win at Armstrong.
“We just keep staying positive and stand together as a team,” Harris said, “We’re picking each other up in the weak spots that we have and getting better.”
Entering week 9, Hanover was ranked 17th in Group 4A, 10th in 4A South. In order to make the playoffs, the Hawks need to be inside the top 16 teams in the VHSL rider rating system for 4A South.