Josh Hollingsworth shook off a pair of second quarter interceptions to throw three touchdown passes in a three-minute span as No. 15 Faulkner broke open a close game with 49 unanswered points en route to a 66-14 victory over Belhaven here Saturday afternoon in a Mid-South Conference matchupat Newell Field.
The Eagles (7-2) led just 17-14 early in the second quarter before the onslaught developed, which included a Hollingsworth touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the first half and two more in the first 2:35 of the third quarter. The Faulkner defense was also dominant, stopping a pair of Belhaven threats following a pair of Hollingsworth interceptions. For the game, the senior signal-caller tossed six touchdown passes and moved past the 3,000-yard mark on the season with 441 yards on the day, completing 19 of 29 attempts on the day. The Eagles finished with 663 yards of total offense to just 341 for Belhaven.
The seventh victory of the season is a program best for Faulkner, yet head coach Brent Barker and his Eagles know there are much bigger goals to be reached in the final two weeks of the regular season. Faulkner is in position to earn its first-ever NAIA post-season berth with wins against Campbellsville and Kentucky Christian.
"I congratulated the guys after the game for the seventh win, and they didn't even hardly react," said Barker, who guided the Eagles to their first winnings season (6-5) a year ago. "They know what's out there, and they know the next two weeks are going to be tough. I do feel we're focused and played our best football of the year right now on both offense and defense. When we get moving offensively, I think it's pretty hard to stop us."
After Belhaven used a fake punt to extend an 89-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 31-yard Ian McGinnis touchdown pass to Justin Kenyon on the first possession of the game, Faulkner began to take charge. The Eagles marched 73 yards on its first possession, which ended with Hollingsworth's first touchdown pass of the day - a 32-yarder to Triston McCathern - to knot the score at 7 apiece.
Cameron Golob's 20-yard field goal the next time the Eagles had the ball gave Faulkner a 10-7 lead, which grew on the final play of the first quarter when Hollingsworth stretched the ball across the goal line on a 3-yard scramble. The Blazers trimmed the margin to 17-14 early in the second quarter on a McGinnis 12-yard strike to Jesse Gibson Jr., but the Eagles answered right back. Hollingsworth's 19-yard scoring pass to A.J. Stevenson - his 11th touchdown catch of the year - finished off a three-play, 65-yard march that extended the lead to 24-14.
Hollingsworth's pair of second quarter miscues set up Belhaven with great field possession on both occasions, but the Eagles' defense refused to give in, in essence changing the scope of the game in the process. The first series started at the Eagles' 15, but Faulkner held on downs. Later in the quarter, the Blazers had it first-and-goal at the the Eagle 5 after the second pickoff, but on third down Antonio Jemison forced a fumble and Mitchell Hoskins recovered to end the threat. From there it was all Faulkner.
"You could just feel that when we stopped them both times after the turnovers, that it was going to go our way," Barker said. "The offense then got hot, and the defense continued to play well. I'm really proud of this team for fighting through some adversity and staying on track."
With less than a minute to play in the half, Hollingsworth directed a 55-yard touchdown drive in just 42 seconds, findingSteven Dawson from 29 yards out for the score with 16 seconds left on the clock to hand the Eagles a 31-14 lead at intermission. After receiving the second half kickoff, Hollingsworth was at it again, with David Amos catching a swing pass in the flat on the first play and sprinting down the sidelines 75 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-14. After Belhaven went three plays and out on the ensuing possession, the Eagles needed just four snaps to add to their advantage. This time Hollingsworth found Trump Harrison from 30 yards for the score, and the rout was on.
Later in the quarter Hollingsworth and Harrison hooked up for the longest pass play in Faulkner history, a 92-yard touchdown bomb that made it 52-14. The defense then got into the scoring parade moments later, when Eric Thompson forced a fumble at the Belhaven 15 and Tony Threatt picked it up and forced his way into the end zone to make it 59-14. Backup quarterbackDavid Cochran closed out the scoring early in the fourth quarter, finding Damon Baca from 45 yards out. Golob was a perfect seven-for-seven on extra points.
Hoskins and Marte Sears each had six solo tackles for the Eagle defense, while Jemison and Isaac Franklin added four apiece. Sears nine total stops and Hoskins' eight were team-leading numbers. Faulkner had eight receivers catch passes, with six of them finding the end zone. Amos and Donald Spencer each had four catches, while Harrison's 131 yards was tops. McCathern's 58 yards rushing led the way as Faulkner had 155 yards on the ground to compliment the 508-yard passing day.
Faulkner hosts Campbellsville next Saturday afternoon in its homecoming game at 1:30 at Billy D. Hilyer Stadium.