Hanson Memorial High School coach Richard Sandusky, with his team and a stalwart core of supporters surrounding him in a tropical storm-spawned downpour, thanked his seniors for sticking with him and the team through the last sev-eral years.
Victory cries accompanied raised index fingers, fists and helmets — all for a season-opening victory. But it’s understandable.
“We haven’t won a home game in three years,” Sandusky said. “Half the teams in the state lost tonight, and we wanted to make sure we weren’t part of that statistic.”
The Tigers’ prospects didn’t look so good early.
Ascension Catholic High School kept play on the Tigers’ end of the field the entire first quarter and put the only points of the first half on the board at the 5:26 mark. The Bulldogs capped a 42-yard drive with a 28-yard pass completion for the score on their first possession of the game.
The teams traded possession three times each with no further damage, but the tide started to turn toward Hanson as halftime approached.
With the second quarter almost half gone, the Tigers took over at their own 31-yard line and started marching down the field. A series of rushing plays took the Tigers to the Bulldog 30, where a facemask penalty pushed the Tigers down into the red zone at the 15-yard line.
From there, however, two incomplete passes on third and fourth downs gave the Bulldogs the ball to run out the clock.
Hanson got a jump start to the second half when up players for Ascension Catholic watched Hanson’s sky-kick kickoff hit the ground between them and didn’t cover it before Tiger senior Zachary Uze did at the Bulldog 30.
The Tiger drive threatened to stall after only three plays, but quarterback Drake Rodriguez made one of the few pass completions of the rainy night on fourth down, hitting Corey Landry for 17 yards to the Bulldog 8.
Three plays later, senior running back Kole Fluke barreled in from three yards out to put Hanson on the board. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Tigers trailing 7-6 with 8:23 remaining in the third quarter.
Ascension seemed to have extended its lead just three plays later, but a 68-yard scoring reception was called back to the Hanson 36 on a penalty for blocking in the back. Hanson backed the Bulldogs up to the 45-yard line, but an interference call brought the Bulldogs back to the Hanson 30.
The Tigers took over at the 30 after three straight incompletions, but Rodriguez fumbled the ball back to Ascension on the next play. Ascension went to the Hanson 7 in one play, but made no forward progress from there. Hanson senior lineman Laine Faucheux picked up a fumble on fourth down and goal and returned it into Bulldog territory.
After trading punts with Ascension, the Tigers started a long march from their own 27-yard line, ramming the ball down the throats of the Bulldog defense. Thirteen plays, all runs, ended with a four-yard touchdown plunge by senior running back Beau Ancona.
Another failed two-point conversion, backed up by a motion penalty, left Hanson in front 12-7 with 2:08 left in the game.
Ascension returned to Hanson territory one last time, but an interception by Fluke sealed the Bulldogs’ fate. Hanson went into victory formation for two plays, but then ran a rushing play and closed out the game with a scamper by Rodriguez around the backfield toward the Tigers’ own end zone until time expired.
“The effort our players put out, especially our seniors, was just amazing,” Sandusky said. “We’ve never had more players come out since I’ve been here. They believe, and they’re enthusiastic about being out here. I couldn’t put a better team on the field.
“Every week, we’re going to have to have an effort like this,” he said. “I think we’re up for the challenge.”
The Tigers rolled up 109 yards rushing on 50 attempts, and added 12 yards receiving on two completions in five attempts. Ascension Catholic completed six of 14 passes for 109 yards and gained just 41 yards on the ground.