BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
DONNELLSON – It was a snowball that just kept growing.
The mistakes that Central Lee had in the first quarter of Friday’s game against Mid-Prairie were converted quickly and decisively.
The 66-8 loss dropped the Hawks to 0-5 in a season in which the time to get a win is fleeting.
Mid-Prairie (3-2) scored 36 points in the first nine minutes of the game, all of Central Lee mistakes or turnovers.
It took the Golden Hawks just three offensive plays to score three touchdowns in that opening stretch, leaving the Hawks dismayed and angry.
“Football is a game of momentum,” said Central Lee assistant coach Tyler Bryant, who was interim head coach in place of Chuck Banks, who missed the game because of a family emergency. “Momentum carries. It’s very powerful in football, more powerful than any other sport. I try to instill that in the kids, that momentum swings are huge.”
Bryant wanted the Hawks to set the tone when they got the opening kickoff, but a fumble on the third offensive play was recovered by Mid-Prairie. Tyler Helmuth’s 14-yard touchdown run and the two-point conversion pass gave the Golden Hawks an 8-0 lead.
Mid-Prairie blocked a punt on the Hawks’ next possession, and this time Helmuth scored on a 3-yard run for a 15-0 lead.
Mid-Prairie’s defense held Central Lee to a three-and-out, and on the first possession after the punt Jarrett Hoffman caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Will Cavanagh for a 21-0 margin.
Mid-Prairie needed just three offensive plays for its next touchdown, an 8-yard run by Braden Hartley, then a 32-yard run by Helmuth after another blocked punt, followed by a two-point conversion pass off a botched point-after snap, gave the Golden Hawks a 36-0 lead.
The 52-0 halftime deficit brought plenty of soul-searching for the Hawks.
“We told them we had to just give effort,” Bryant said. “Look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, did I give everything?’ We kind of had some separation between the kids, and we needed to get back together.”
Bryant got his response on the Hawks’ first play of the second half. Bryce Finney’s 36-yard pass to Grant Myhre set Central Lee up at the Mid-Prairie 25-yard line, and three plays later the Hawks had first-and-goal at the 7. But a holding penalty doomed the possession, although the Hawks did get a good scoring chance when Finney scrambled 13 yards on fourth down to the Mid-Prairie 3, and the Golden Hawks were called for a face-mask penalty. But Hunter Gregory was stopped on a fourth-down run.
Central Lee finally got points when Finney threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Cory Jones, then connected with Chase Johnson on the two-point conversion.
Those two drives, Bryant said, were momentum builders for next week.
“Focus on those,” Bryant said. “The second half, the (effort) was better. First half, not so much. And it definitely impacted our playing.”