The Harmony Longhorns came into Friday night’s game looking for a big win in front of their home crowd at “The Ranch” They got what needed on both sides of the ball, recording a big upset win over the Tohopekaliga Tigers 23-14.
“This team has been through so much this season, but they never quit. I’m so proud of the effort they gave tonight. Our quarterback grew up a lot tonight and defense played lights out,” Harmony Coach Nick Lippert said. “Offense, defense, special team – it was a total team effort.”
Tohopekaliga, who came into the game with a 5-2 record and was averaging 43 points per game, had trouble finding the end zone against a fired up Harmony defense. The Longhorns stopped the Tigers on their first two possessions, the second coming when Tohopekaliga tried to convert a fourth and one from their own 28.
Harmony took advantage of the outstanding field position when junior quarterback Kal Amen hit Ivaniel Ramos on a 30-yard pass as the Longhorns took a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers would get the tying score midway through the second quarter, as Sabby Meassick hit Churandy Duval on a 9-yard scoring pass.
But in the half, it was the Longhorns’ defense that shined, coming up with four defensive stops while limiting Meassick to 12 for 20 passing for 96 yards and two interceptions as they took a 7-7 tie into the locker room at halftime.
The Longhorns would make a statement to start the second half, taking the opening kickoff and marching 65-yards on five plays with Jeremy Hilliard capping the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run and a 14-7 lead. Harmony would then partially block a punt on the next series and freshman Brayden Buehler would boot a 31-yard field goal to up the lead to 17-7.
Tohopekaliga would answer with a drive into Harmony territory but on a second and 12, Meassick would be sacked and fumble with the Longhorns recovering. Two series later, Tohopekaliga would finally cut the lead to 17-14, as Meassick directed a 72-yard scoring drive capped with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Theagene.
But following another fourth down stop by its defense, Harmony would put the game away midway through the fourth quarter when Hilliard took a handoff up the middle, broke two tackles at the line and raced 54 yards for a touchdown. Hilliard would finish the game with 123 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
“He was a monster for us tonight,” Lippert added. “The long touchdown was one thing, but he kept picking up the tough three and four yard runs and moving the chains for us when we needed it.”
Meassick, who came into the game completing 71% of his passes and averaging 400 yards per game throwing, was 25 for 47 (53.1%) for 230 yards. He was picked off twice, in addition to losing a fumble and being sacked twice. Overall, the Harmony defense recorded six stops on fourth down.
“Our defense did a great job tonight,” Amen said. “They made the defensive stops when we needed to and gave our offense good field position all night. This win is something I think we can build off for the rest of this year and for next season.”
Harmony, now 2-6, travels to Heritage (7-1) next week for a tough district finale. “It will be a tough challenge for us,” Lippert noted. “They are solid on both sides of the ball and always seem to get a lot of really good players transferring in to their program. We’ll get a good week of work in and do our best.”
Tohopekaliga now must re-group for what may be the biggest game in the school’s brief five-year history. With both teams 2-0 in district play, they will host Osceola (2-6) for the Class 4S, District 10 championship. At stake is a trip to the regional playoffs. Osceola, who were shut out Thursday night by Mainland (Daytona Beach 26-0) has made 16 straight regional appearances; while Tohopekaliga will be looking for their first trip to the post-season.