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Hawks slip past Central

Michael Peryo has to have a short memory.

Peryo, Hardin Valley Academy’s senior kicker, overcame a missed third-quarter field goal to do it all in the Hawks’ kicking game in Friday night’s 24-14 District 3-AAA victory over Central before a huge crowd on homecoming night.

“When I kick a field goal, I forget about my last one,” said Peryo, who scored the game-winning points against the Bobcats with a 23-yard field goal with 6:52 remaining in regulation that gave the Hawks a 17-14 lead. “I love kicking field goals. Field goals are exciting when you make them.

“But when you miss them, you just have to forget them.”

Peryo had to forget one such missed kick Friday night at a key time in a close contest.

HVA, which found itself in a 7-7 tie at halftime, had the first possession after the break and got a short field thanks to a big return by Dorian Eskridge that set the Hawks up at the Central 47-yard line.

From there, Hardin Valley (4-1 overall, 3-0 in the district) engineered a modest 10-play, 17-yard drive that stalled at the Bobcats 30 thanks to some stiff defense from Central. Peryo missed a 47-yarder and the game remained knotted 7-7 — at least for a short time.

The Bobcats (0-6, 0-4) took the ball at their 20 following the errant field goal and scored on the next play. Senior running back and Tennessee Volunteers commitment Cody Blance rumbled 80 yards.

The Hawks answered on their ensuing series when Jordan Newport capped off a 7-play 33-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run to pull HVA within 14-13.

Peryo added the game-tying PAT with 4:49 left in the third quarter. The scoring drive was set up by a long kickoff return by senior Devin Cox.

“We played great on special teams tonight,” Hardin Valley head coach Wes Jones said. “We had a couple of big returns.

“Michael really punted well and he kicked that field goal when we had to have it.”

The Hawks’ special teams provided a much-needed spark as Hardin Valley was short-handed on offense. Starting quarterback Tim Vara missed this Sept. 23 homecoming contest with a concussion and running back Jacob Weaver also was out with a high ankle sprain.

Peryo punted five times and posted a 39-yard average. He pinned the Bobcats inside their own 20 on all five of his efforts.

Hardin Valley’s defense took control in the fourth quarter. They’ve made the big plays — the game-changing plays — all season. Most of the defense’s big plays have come early.

On this Sept. 23 night, however, the big plays came late.

The Hawks stopped Central with 8:45 left when Demonte Felden intercepted an Austin Byrd pass and returned it to the Bobcats 6. The turnover led to Peryo’s 23-yard field goal that gave Hardin Valley a 17-14 lead that it would never relinquish.

“I went through my drops and just did what I was supposed to do,” Felden said of the interception. “When the season started, I knew that we would have one of the best defenses in Knox County.

“I knew that we were going to have a breakout game and tonight was our breakout game.”

And Hardin Valley’s defense wasn’t finished.

On Central’s next possession, Isaiah Burum recovered a fumble deep in Bobcat territory. Newport, who rushed for 60 yards, scored a short time later on a 1-yard run to put the game out of reach after a tough battle.

“We knew that this was going to be a tough game,” Jones said. “Central is a good football team and they have great athletes.

“They play great defense and they executed better on offense tonight than I’d seen on film and they’re going to win some games.”

The Hawks scored first when Eskridge, who rushed for 139 yards, scampered in from 37 yards out to give HVA a 7-0 lead with 1:49 left in the first quarter.

Central answered just before halftime when Byrd hit Gavin Adams on an 8-yard scoring strike with only 11.4 seconds remaining.


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