But thanks to a number of big plays down the stretch, the Hawks came back from 12 points down in the second half to earn an improbable 23-22 win over Whitnall at Greenfield High School.
No play was bigger than senior running back Xavier Copeland’s touchdown with 4 minutes, 9 seconds remaining.
Facing a third-and-16 situation from his team’s own 38-yard line, Otto called a screen to Copeland that junior quarterback Jeremy Swider delivered beautifully. Copeland turned on the jets and 62 yards later, the Hawks had a 23-22 lead.
See our video for Copeland and Otto’s reaction to the play.
Whitnall still had two chances to reclaim the lead following Copeland’s score. But one possession ended when junior quarterback Tyler Merritt was sacked and fumbled with 3:13 left, and another was stalled when Merritt was stuffed on a fourth-and-2 run from the Falcons’ own 40-yard line.
“Oh my gosh, the defense was huge,” Otto said. “A little bend, but don’t break.”
The Falcons took a 22-10 lead midway through the third quarter on Nick Monty’s 2-yard touchdown run that capped a 12-play, 72-yard drive.
But Greenfield answered right back with a nine-play drive of its own, finished off by Swider’s 19-yard run on a third-and-12 play.
Greenfield improved to 1-2 overall including 1-0 in the Woodland Conference East. Defending champion Whitnall fell to 0-3 and 0-1.
“It was a must win for us, already in the third week of the season,” Otto said.
Merritt finished 9-for-20 passing for 193 yards. Monty had 21 carries for 79 yards – 74 of which came after halftime – and two short rushing TDs.
In addition to his big receiving play, Copeland rushed for
70 yards on just three attempts, and Swider added 77 on 11 attempts, including
a 56-yard touchdown run 63 seconds into the first quarter.