SEASIDE — After a combined 1,080(!) yards in total offense, 47 first downs and five lead changes … the final difference on the scoreboard was just four points Friday night at Broadway Field: Henley 43, Seaside 39.
In a game that fans and players on both sides will not soon forget, the Hornets drove 98 yards in the final three minutes and scored on a 15-yard pass from Kyle Hadwick to Gabe Young with 20 seconds left for the winning points.
The players were spent physically after 48 hard-fought minutes, and the fans were equally exhausted after one of the craziest games in Broadway Field history.
Long after the final touchdown, one fact remained on the artificial turf at Broadway: Both teams had a tremendous amount of respect for the other.
“We ran into a good team tonight,” said Seaside coach Jeff Roberts, whose team finishes 6-3, and second place in the Cowapa League.
“This really stings,” he said of the loss. “But Henley’s a good football team. I thought we would do a little better defensively, especially having defended Banks so well, but (the Hornets’) kids up front are really good, and we got beat up a little up front.”
Henley coach Alex Stork stated, “I have to give a lot of credit to Seaside. That is a talented ball club, and they have some guys with character and heart. Absolutely first class. The whole program — coaching staff and every single player.”
As always, Roberts delivered a good message to his players following the game.
“I told them (the loss) isn’t going to define who they are for the rest of their lives,” he said. “You can work your tail off and do everything right, but sometimes you just don’t come out ahead.”
As for the game itself, there were five touchdowns of 39 yards or more, and all five lead changes took place in the fourth quarter.
Seaside opened the fireworks on just the second play of the game, a 75-yard run by Alex Teubner. And that set the tone for the night.
Hadwick reeled off a 48-yard touchdown run five plays later; Seaside answered with a 39-yard Payton Westerholm-to-Dawson Blanchard TD toss; and Teubner’s 3-yard scoring run gave the Gulls a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter.
And the highlight show was far from over.
Hadwick had a 5-yard scoring run with 6:21 left in the first half; the Gulls responded with a one-play drive, a 76-yard touchdown pass from Westerholm to Brayden Johnson; and Henley capped the first half with a screen pass from Hadwick to Will Conrad, that the 5-foot-10, 220-pound running back took 50 yards for a touchdown with just 10 seconds left before halftime.
If there was one key score, that was it.
“That’s the first time we’ve run that play all year,” Stork said. “I was asking our offensive coordinator, ‘what are you doing?! No! You’re running a jet screen to our running back?’ And he made a big-time play.
“I really wanted to get a score before halftime,” he said. “I knew if we could get in, then make some halftime adjustments, we’d come out and make some stops.”
In a much more down-to-earth third period, the Hornets took their first lead on a 16-yard run by Hadwick with 4:10 left in the third quarter, the only score of the quarter.
The scoring heated up again in the final period, with Teubner barging in from 1-yard out to put Seaside back in front, 33-29.
Hadwick scored on a 27-yard run, capping a 77-yard drive to put Henley in front, 36-33; but Seaside marched right back with a six-play drive, highlighted by a 37-yard Westerholm-to-Blanchard pass. Teubner scored on a 2-yard run with 5:32 remaining for a 39-36 Seaside lead.
From there, the Hornets failed on a fourth down play to give the ball back to Seaside, but the Gulls were forced to punt — a 41-yard boot by Blanchard that the Gulls downed at the Hornet 3-yard line with 3:22 left.
A false start on second down moved the ball back to the 2-yard line, and the Hornets were 98 yards away.
Gains of 25 and 29 yards moved the ball into Seaside territory with 51 seconds remaining, and — out of timeouts — Hadwick rolled right and found Young in the right corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
The point-after kick gave the Hornets a 43-39 lead with just 20 seconds left.
“I said on the sideline before we started — this is going to be called ‘The Drive,’ in about 20 years,” Stork said. “We went 98 yards. We had to mix it up. Seaside was giving us some different looks and taking some stuff away that we like to do.”
The Gulls still had one final possession. Seaside moved the ball to its own 42 with seven seconds remaining, but a desperation pass on the final play was intercepted by Henley’s John O’Connor.
“There was a couple of stops in the game by both sides, but that was it,” Stork said. “It was, ‘who’s going to have it last?’ It really showed our grit and character. Our character has gotten us here, and that’s what’s kept us going. An eight-hour road trip, and we made the best of it.”
Teubner rushed for 231 yards on 25 carries and scored four touchdowns; and Westerholm completed 9-of-13 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Brayden Johnson caught three passes for 94 yards.
For the Hornets, Hadwick carried 24 times for 208 yards and four scores, and passed for 209 yards (12-for-20) and two touchdowns.
“Football’s a vehicle that turns young men into great people,” said Roberts, who returned to coach this season, in addition to his role as the school’s principal. “Whatever my role in this program is as I move forward, that will never change.”
With many of their key players returning next season, Roberts said, “we’ve put ourselves in a good position to be a contender for the Cowapa League title next year.”