A valiant second-half effort by the Magnolia Bulldogs excited the MHS Homecoming crowd Sept. 28, but fell short as the Huntsville Hornets escaped with a 29-15 victory.
Down 22-0 after the first half, the Bulldogs (1-3, 0-2 in 18-4A) fought back within seven early in the fourth quarter before Huntsville (3-2, 2-1) sealed the deal with about six minutes left in the game.
The visitors opened the second half with a 60-yard drive to the Dogs’ 12-yard-line when, on first down, Hornets’ junior quarterback Malik Brown fumbled to the 1-yard-line and Magnolia recovered. Four plays later, the locals found paydirt when junior tailback Greg Solomon scampered 16 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion from junior quarterback Noah McGowan to senior wide receiver Jordan Turnbow made it 22-8 with 7:50 remaining in the quarter.
Solomon’s score was preceded by a crucial 67-yard catch on third-and-nine from McGowan to Turnbow to the Hornets’ 31. A personal foul on Huntsville moved the ball to the 16, setting up Solomon’s touchdown run.
“Down 22-0, our guys could have quit,” said Magnolia Head Coach Andy Sexton. “We keep trying, and one day we’re going to get over this mountaintop.”
The Dog defense held their guests scoreless in the third quarter, then began the final stanza with a 10-play, 50-yard drive for another six points. The drive was helped by a pass interference call against the Hornets on third-and-12 from the Hornets’ 40. After a holding call on the ‘Dogs, McGowan connected with junior wideout Marquis Robinson for 15 yards, Turnbow ran for 11 yards to the Huntsville 12, then junior running back Shyerome Harris took a snap and dashed into the endzone with 10:23 remaining. Junior Woodman Nigh’s PAT made it 22-15 Hornets.
The daring comeback in Magnolia Stadium was quelled on the visitors’ next possession when the Hornets drove 76 yards in nine plays to extend the margin to 29-15. Senior Ricky Bennett, one of three speedy Huntsville weapons, scooted around right end five yards to dim the ‘Dogs’ hopes at the 6:03 mark.
The good guys hurried through one more drive following a touchback, but stalled on downs inside the Hornets’ 30. Huntsville then ran out the clock, moving the ball 60 yards against a warring-but-worn Magnolia defense, before taking a knee at the ‘Dogs’ 10-yard-line.
“We’re a young group of guys,” Sexton said. “If this team plays like they did in the second half, we’re gonna win some games.”
Magnolia might have been tied later in this contest, but missed a touchdown by one yard on the last play of the first half. McGowan scrambled out of the backfield from the Huntsville 44 and raced down the left sideline before being forced out of bounds just short of the goal line. McGowan finished 11 of 21 for 154 yards passing, and rushed for more than 80 yards.
Magnolia ran up 329 yards of total offense with no turnovers on the night to 422 yards for Huntsville. Hornets’ sophomore tailback Morie Evans contributed 134 yards on just three carries (including a 68-yard TD run), senior running back James Burns added 55 yards on just nine totes as Huntsville ran for more than 270 yards. Oddly, the Bulldogs had 19 first down to 17 for the visitors.
The Bulldogs traveled to play Caney Creek Oct. 5 and face cross-town rival Magnolia West Friday, Oct. 12.