WINFIELD — Though Hurricane had won eight straight in the series and 22 of the last 23 heading into Friday night’s season-opening edition of the War on 34 against Putnam County rival Winfield, it hadn’t been easy for the Redskins over the past couple of seasons.
And even as dominant as it looked early, Winfield again pushed Hurricane to the limit, only to come up a bit short.
In a game that looked like a potential runaway in the first half, Hurricane’s Timothy McCutchen hit a 42-yard field goal with 46.4 seconds left to finally put the game out of reach as the Redskins held on for a 24-13 win.
Winfield fumbled its first snap of 2018, setting up Hurricane for an early touchdown, and the Generals couldn’t muster a first down until its last possession of the first half, at which point the home team was in negative numbers in terms of total yardage.
But Hurricane would still need a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter from running back Christian Hill and McCutchen’s field goal to escape the never-say-die Generals yet again.
“In the second half we lost half our offensive line to cramps, we lost our starting linebacker, we lost our backup kid,” Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor said. “We’ve got a long way to go, man, a long way to go. We’re just going to have to pick it up and play and find some more kids that can play.”
It certainly was a punishing affair, especially after Winfield decided to join the party offensively, setting up a pounding second half on both sides.
Hurricane instituted a two-man rotation at quarterback, with last year’s starter Nathan Roy splitting time with backup Austin Womack.
Womack found success early, engineering two touchdown drives in the first half, the first of which came after Winfield fumbled on its first offensive play, setting up the Redskins at the Generals’ 17-yard line. Hurricane went backward the first two plays with a holding penalty, a fumbled snap and an incompletion, putting the Redskins in a third-and-24 situation from the Generals’ 31.
But Womack took the third-down snap and fired a perfect spiral to the corner of the end zone and into the hands of R.J. Engel for a touchdown and the first huge momentum shift of the night.
After two Winfield three-and-outs sandwiched around one for Hurricane, Womack re-entered as the Redskins took over at their own 11. But, capped by a 25-yard connection from Womack to Nate Barham, the Redskins marched 89 yards in 13 plays to go up 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
All the while, Winfield couldn’t get moving in the right direction, getting its first first down to begin the half’s final drive after Womack was picked off deep in Generals territory. Winfield reached as far as the Hurricane 26 as the ground game gained traction, but time expired sending the teams into the locker room.
“They’re very good in the box, we knew they were strong and physical,” Winfield coach Craig Snyder said. “We’ve got some growing up to do up front. Hurricane is a good football team.
“We made a game of it. A ball bounces our way a couple more times, maybe we’re right in it.”
The bit of momentum Winfield found on the half-closing drive in its power-pistol run formation continued into the second half and after the teams traded punts.
Winfield running back John Covert came up with the half’s first big play, shrugging off three Hurricane tacklers and rumbling 76 yards to the 1-yard line, setting up a dive for Jacob Huff to pull Winfield to within seven at 14-7.
The Generals held on two straight Hurricane drives, giving the Generals’ offense chances to draw even, but Hurricane’s defense was up to the task, forcing a pair of three-and-outs.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Hurricane took over at the Winfield 32-yard line and, with 4:47 left, Hill found the end zone from 17 yards out to push the Redskins’ lead to 21-7.
Hill, one of the top running backs in the state a year ago, rumbled for 186 yards on 26 carries, helping Hurricane to a 380-271 advantage in total yards.
Winfield quarterback Nick Vance, starting his first game at quarterback after 38-game starter Andrew Huff graduated last year, struggled a bit to find his touch through the air early. But he engineered a 13-play, 80-yard scoring march to answer Hill’s run, finishing with a 20-yard touchdown toss to Cameron Brooks to put pressure back on the Redskins.
Hill answered with a long touchdown run that was called back by a block in the back, but set Hurricane up at the Winfield 32-yard line. Three plays later, McCutchen buried his 42-yard attempt to cap the scoring and send the Redskins on their way.
Womack hit on 7 of 12 passes for 124 yards with Roy completing 4 of 8 passes for 21 yards. Covert led Winfield with 136 yards on 20 rushes.