Time and again throughout the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s game against Howard, Hodgson’s special teams and offense put its defense in precarious field position.
And time and again, the second-seeded Silver Eagles’ defense kept the game under control.
Despite a first-quarter recovered onside kick and two fumbles early in the third quarter, Hodgson kept the seventh-seeded Wildcats at bay thanks in large part to its defense in a 38-14 DIAA Division II Football Tournament quarterfinal victory.
“The defense settled in real nicely,” Silver Eagles coach Frank Moffett Jr. said. “They made some plays.”
With its offense having trouble finding traction, Hodgson (9-2) led only 18-6 at halftime. And after receiving the third-quarter kickoff, the Silver Eagles turned the ball over to Howard (7-4) at the Hodgson 30 following a fumble. The Hodgson defense, however, forced a four-and-out.
On their next possession, the Silver Eagles again fumbled the ball back to the Wildcats, this time at the Hodgson 23. But just like the series before, the Silver Eagles defense forced the Howard offense into a four-and-out to maintain its two-possession lead.
“For a team like this, you can’t give them a lot of momentum,” Hodgson defensive lineman Dwight Chavis said. “We knew we had to keep our foot on their neck and keep our foot on the pedal. That was important.”
Those threats thwarted, the Silver Eagles offense then went about pulling away. Hodgson quarterback Raymond Jones (15 carries, 129 yards, three touchdowns) scored on runs of 65 and 13 yards in the third and fourth quarters, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Early on, Howard pulled off an 84-yard hook-and-lateral touchdown from quarterback Earnest Austin to Chaz Sydnor by way of Bryan Wright, tying the contest at 6. The Wildcats then recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. But just like later in the game, the Hodgson defense held and forced a turnover. The Silver Eagles then scored on their next two possessions and led by two scores the rest of the way.
“I think it’s tough when you get opportunities and you squander them,” Howard coach Dan Ritter said. “We had a couple opportunities early, and then we had a couple turnovers that hurt us as well.”