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The Hall football team has made a season of being named the underdog week in and week out, falling behind early and then making late fourth quarter runs for victories.
Friday’s game in Spring Valley was no different as the Red Devils fought back from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Kewanee 28-27 in a Three Rivers Conference South Division battle.
“It’s kind of inexplicable, but to us as a team, we weren’t seeing ourselves as the underdogs,” Hall senior quarterback Taggart Venegas said. “We had high expectations as a team, not really worrying about what anybody else said around town or the area. We were just concentrating on what we had to get done as a team and not the outside stuff.”
The Red Devils (5-3, 3-2 TRCS) were down 27-20 with 2:20 left in the game. The Boilermakers had just scored on a drive consisting of 11 plays and had seemed to run down the clock enough to hold Hall at bay.
Senior running back Collin Aimone and his special teams blocking unit disagreed as he ran the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
“Jeez, with the blocks, I didn’t have to do a thing,” Aimone said. “I didn’t do one thing myself. Those blocks were all there. I was so tired. I thought I heard footsteps behind me and the ball came loose a couple times. I was like, ‘Oh, am I going to fumble it?’
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.” Hall coach Randy Tieman went for a two-point conversion on the last two Red Devil touchdowns with a 50 percent efficiency rate.
With the game in the balance, he decided to try again.
Venegas took the snap, took a step toward the line of scrimmage as if he was going to scramble and handed it off to sophomore running back Chris Hammonds, who found his way through the Boilermaker line for the two-point conversion and the go-ahead score.
“I have confidence in our kids that they are going to make a play for us and they did,” Tieman said.
Kewanee had two minutes to steal the win back.
On the Boilermakers’ first play from their own 26-yard line, quarterback David Washburn threw a 41-yard pass to Cody Goforth.
After a few dink and dunk passes, Washburn had another completion for a first down — this time to tight end Jared Nimrick for 14 yards.
There were 59.5 seconds on the clock and Kewanee had a first-and-10 on the Hall 14-yard line.
Again, Aimone had an answer.
He leapt in front of Goforth — the same receiver who beat Aimone for good field position — and snagged the ball with one hand for an interception to seal the victory.
“(Washburn) just lobbed it up,” Aimone said. “He threw to (Goforth) maybe once or twice and he beat me deep earlier in the game. I just wasn’t going to let it happen. He lobbed one up for the taking, and if I didn’t have gloves on, it would have slid right out.
“I pulled it down and held on to it tighter than anything before.”
Aimone’s kickoff return touchdown was the only Hall TD not thrown by Venegas. He went 13-of-26 for 203 yards and three TDs. He connected with six receivers, including Hammonds on a 29-yard touchdown, junior running back A.J. Gaeta on a 21-yard TD and Jake Merkel for an 8-yard TD for Hall’s first score.
“We just said from the beginning of the season that all we want to do is get better every week,” Tieman said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Brandon LaChance can reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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