Big plays by Blackhawk and turnovers by New Castle were the story of tonights game. The Cougars first play from scrimmage, a flea flicker that went for a 77 yard touchdown pass, an 84 yard kickoff return for a score that answered a Hurricanes touchdown and a 32 yard interception return for a touchdown were just too much for the Canes to overcome.
Taking away the Cougar big plays and despite sophomore quarterback Ross Crists continued baptism under fire in the starting role, the Canes played Blackhawk even. However the big plays count and the inexperience showed and the Canes fell 27-13.
The Hurricanes received opening kickoff but started slow as Crist lost yardage on his fist two carries setting up a third and 14 at the Canes own 28. Crist then hit Leon Ward with a 15 yard strike to keep the drive alive.
Crist for no gain, then Zach Mariacher for eight left the Canes with third and one at their 47. Then a hand off to Robert Calhoun gained only one yard and the Hurricanes Alan Billyk came on to punt.
Blackhawk started at their own 23. On the first play quarterback J. R. Barley (former New Castle resident) handed the ball off then got it pitched back to him and then threw down the field and hit Sean Conley for a 77 yard touchdown strike. With just under four minutes gone the Canes trailed 7-0.
Their next possession saw New Castle go three and out and following a sack punted on fourth and 16.
The Hurricanes defense held Blackhawk to just three plays and New Castle got the ball back on their own 14 following the Cougar punt.
The Canes first play saw Crist on a keeper but he was hit and fumbled the ball after a 5 yard gain with Blackhawk recovering. The Cougars were in business at the Hurricanes 19.
Four plays later Blackhawk scored. The PAT made it 14-0 with 2:58 to play in the first period.
Ward received the ensuing kickoff for the Canes on his own eight and took off down the sideline for 40 yards finally being hauled down at the New Castle 48. Mariacher took the first handoff for four yards then Crist did the rest himself on carries of 12, 5, 4 then 27 yards to paydirt and the Canes were on the board. Joey Harvey it the PAT and the score 14-7 with just 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
The kickoff from David Colella was picked up by Blackhawk on the 16 with the runner hitting the pile then bouncing to the outside and down the field 84 yards for the score with no time left in the period. The PAT was no good but the Cougars led 20-7 after one.
New Castle received the kickoff but could do nothing with it, again going three and out. Blackhawk started their next drive at the New Castle 44 following the Canes punt. They steadily moved down the field reaching the 19 before a bad pitch caused a loss of 11 setting up a third and 21. The Cougars ran a draw play and Mike Bitcko went up the middle for 21 yards and a first down at the nine. The Canes stayed alive however causing a fumble on the next play and with Mariacher recovering to keep the Canes close with nearly six minutes left in the half.
However the Hurricanes offense was still sputtering and was forced to punt from deep in their own territory after just three plays again.
The Cougars took possession again in Cane territory, this time at the 48 but on the first play from scrimmage Blackhawk fumbled with Noah Elliot grabbing the loose ball at the 3:25 mark.
Right about then the scoreboard clock went out forcing the time to be kept only on the field.
But once again the Canes punted after just three plays. This time however the Cougars were in the shadow of their own goal and managed to be facing a third and 12 at the 6. Taking no chances they quick kicked on third down and the Canes took over in Blackhawk territory at the 48.
Nine plays later New Castle was on the seven yard line and was quickly trying to set up for a field goal when the official blew his whistle stopping action as the half ended.
The Cougars received the second half kickoff but returned it to the Canes after just three plays.
The teams exchanged punts again in the period before Blackhawk started to drive. The Cougars had reached the New Castle 27 and faced a third and eight when on the next play Johnnie Johnson broke through for the sack and Blackhawk was forced to punt.
New Castle took over at their own seven. After three plays and facing a third and five Crist dropped back and tried hit Ward crossing the middle. Barley of Blackhawk stepped in front and pick off the pass running with it 32 yards for the score. The PAT made it 27-7 at the 9:54 mark.
Cameron Reid returned the Cougar kickoff 27 yards to the Blackhawk 47 and the Canes started to work. After a penalty and an incompletion Crist hit Ward for 15 yards. On the next play Crist threw long down the sideline to Ward who almost had the ball in traffic but Blackhawk was called for pass interference on the play. The penalty put the ball on the Cougar 21. On the next play Crist was under extreme pressure and tossed the ball away to avoid a sack and was called for intentional grounding. The walk-off left the Canes with a second and 23 at the Blackhawk 34.
Crist then found tightend Tom Sabol for a 20 yard gain to the 14. Next Robert Calhoun took the handoff and bulled his way for six yards for a first down at the 8. An incompletion and a loss of one and the Canes were third and goal at the nine. On the next play Crist took the snap and sprinted toward the corner of the endzone getting in for the score. New Castle tried for two and failed. The Canes now trailed 27-13 with 7:06 left.
On the ensuing kickoff kicker Colella executed a perfect on-side kick and the Canes recovered.
The Hurricanes again were moving the ball led by 15 yard strike to Ward and a 16 yard run by Calhoun. But with a first and 10 at the Cougar 20 Crist was intercepted again, thwarting the drive.
Blackhawk marched out to midfield but stalled and punted back to the Canes.
Three plays later though Crist was intercepted again and the game belonged to the Cougars.
Crist led the Canes in rushing with 54 yards on 19 carries while Mariacher had 40 on 6 and and Calhoun had 38 seven carries.
Crist threw for 111 yards completing 9 of 20 with three interceptions. Ward had in 6 catches for 69 yards.
The Hurricane defense held Blackhawk to just 68 yards rushing and 123 passing.