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San Antonio Veterans Memorial edges Canyon Lake football with last second field goal

CAPTION: Canyon Lake sophomore running back James Garza takes the handoff from senior quarterback Hunter Anderson and pounds out some yardage against the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Patriots. The Hawks fell behind early in the Friday, Sept. 16, game, but tied it up in the waning minutes. However, a Patriots field goal with six seconds left gave Veterans Memorial a 31-28 win. Photo by Daniel Clifton

Despite trailing the San Antonio Veterans Memorial Patriots 28-12 about midway through third quarter, the Canyon Lake Hawks stormed back to make things interesting, evening the score with under four minutes left in the game.

However, a 36-yard field goal with six seconds left in the game by Veterans Memorial’s Rafael Nunez earned the Patriots a 31-28 win Friday, Sept. 16, at Hawk Stadium. It’s the third game the Hawks have fallen behind in but battled back to put themselves in contention, a fact not lost on head coach Charley Drum.

“I’m proud of how our team is fighting. Playing this tough non-district schedule, the amateur eye may not see it, they see us as 0-3, but we played three really good ball clubs. And we played them well,” he said. “We’ve always played a tough non-district schedule. And that’s what I love about our kids, they think they can win all of them and we can.”

The tough non-district schedule helps prepare the Hawks (0-3 overall, 0-0 District 13-4A Division I) for district competition.

Against the Patriots (3-1 overall 0-0 District 13-5A II), Drum said the Hawks struggled on special teams, giving up good field position on punts and kick offs. Plus, two missed extra points put Canyon Lake in a situation of having to go for two-point conversions later in the game.

“That’s all fixable,” Drum said of the special teams play.

Veterans Memorial jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Senior quarterback Christopher Irving connected with James Peoples for a 43-yard touchdown reception at the 5:38 mark in the opening period. Then about five minutes later People’s rushed for an 8-yard touchdown, giving the Patriots a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Hawks’ offense responded with a strong touchdown drive. A key play was senior quarterback Hunter Anderson hitting senior running back Helijah Johnson over the middle for a 32-yard pass play, setting the Hawks up on the Patriots’ 25-yard line. Then, a few plays later in a fourth and goal situation, the Hawks went for the touchdown. Johnson leapt over the defense for the score with 7:39 left in the third. The point after attempt failed, and the Patriots led 14-6.

That’s how things stood at the half.

In the third quarter, Veterans Memorial’s offense picked up where it left off. Irving hit junior wide receiver Clinton Dixon for a 35-yard pass reception that put the Patriots on the Canyon Lake 21-yard line. The Patriots worked their way down to the Hawks’ 1-yard line where Peoples finished off the drive for a 21-6 lead.

As with the Hawks, opponents can’t overlook the team’s fight and grit.

Canyon Lake’s Hunter Anderson initiated a touchdown drive from Hawks territory and used every offensive weapon at his disposal. Sophomore running back James Garza showed his legs with a 36-yard run that moved the Hawks deep into Veteran Memorial territory. Then senior wide receiver Chase Anderson topped off the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run at the 8:15 mark in the third quarter, cutting the Patriots’ lead to 21-12.

However, Irving connected with senior wide receiver Landen Drake for a 49-yard touchdown pass, and the Patriots were up 28-12 with 6:43 left in the third quarter.

The Hawks weren’t done, however.

On the ensuing drive, they pushed back on the Patriots. Garza turned in another good run, this one a 20-yard scamper that put the Hawks on Veterans Memorial’s 46-yard line. But it looked as if the Patriots’ defense may get the stop as they forced the Hawks into a fourth-and-one situation on the 30-yard line.

The Johnson broke free for an 11-yard run and the Canyon Lake first down.

A few plays later, junior running back Justin Abbott scored on a seven-yard run. The Hawks converted on the two-point conversion, and with 33 seconds left in the third, they trailed 28-20.

The Hawks defense, which continued to find ways to keep the explosive Patriots’ offense in check, gave Canyon Lake a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. The Hawks defense forced the Patriots to punt from their own 45-yard line.

Canyon Lake took over on their own 21-yard line.

The Hawks offense chewed valuable minutes off the clock as it drove down the field in the fourth quarter. Several key plays helped keep the Hawks rolling including Chase Anderson’s 15-yard run that pushed Canyon Lake into Patriots’ territory. Sophomore running back Carter Williams took the handoff from Hunter Anderson and raced 19 yards to the Patriots’ 12-yard line.

But again, Veterans Memorial’s defense forced a fourth down situation. This time quarterback Hunter Anderson broke free on the outside and got the first down on the Patriots’ one-yard line. He then capped off the drive with a dive into the end zone behind senior center Cory Bowers.

On the two-point conversion attempt, the Hawks turned to their big man, Helijah Johnson, who punched it in over the right side led by key blocks from seniors Griffen Williams, Sonny Bentley and Brett Harwell.

With 3:42 left in the game, the Hawks tied it up, 28-28.

The teams exchanged possessions in the waning minutes, but a short Hawks punt eventually gave the Patriots the ball on the Canyon Lake 32-yard line with 28 seconds left in the game.

With six seconds left, Veterans Memorial sophomore kicker Rafael Nunez kicked a 36-yard field goal that iced the Patriots’ 31-28 victory.

“This game was probably our closest to a complete game, we’re not there yet,” Drum said, noting the special team issues. But he was optimistic of the Hawks’ ability to fix them issues as they get ready for district competition.

However, before district starts, the Hawks face Class 6A member San Antonio East Central Hornets (2-2 overall, 0-0 District 27-6A) on Friday, Sept. 23. The Hornets are coming off a 27-7 victory over winless Del Rio (0-4).

The game is at Hornet Stadium, 7173 FM 1638 (also known as Stuart Road) in San Antonio. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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