By: Josh Briggs
HASKELL — The Harmony Grove Cardinals (3-2, 1-1) showed up Friday night ready to play. In front of their home crowd, and on homecoming, the Cardinals torched the Bismarck Lions (2-3, 0-2), winning by their halftime score of 42-7 as the clock rolled in the second half.
“I am pleased with the way we came out, the intensity we played with and the heart that we exhibited,” said Head Coach Paul Calley. “The kids didn’t have that last week — for whatever reason. We had it (Friday) and we have to carry it into next week and into the rest of the year.”
Senior quarterback Hunter Hilson showed off what he can do with a little bit of time in the pocket, completing his first eight passes of the game. He would finish his night 9 for 13 for 176 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
“You give him time and he is going to pick people apart,” Calley said. “We got to have him. That’s what we need down the stretch. The interception he threw in the end zone — his receiver broke the route off. He has to keep running.
“We had a couple of protection breakdowns, but overall it was better. We played solid defense, other than one big play that cost us a touchdown.”
Junior receiver Sean Small was Hilson’s go-to guy Friday, bringing in four catches for 132 yards and two scores. Small also would intercept a pass on defense. As a team, Harmony Grove would force five turnovers, including three more interceptions and a fumble.
Hilson was sacked twice Friday, bringing his season total to 14 through five games.
On the ground, Harmony Grove junior running back Jake Brooks shined as well, rushing 12 times for 93 yards and two scores, all in the first half.
The Cardinals would take a quick 7-0 lead four plays into the first quarter when Hilson found Small wide open for a 33-yard TD strike with 10:15 to tick in the frame.
After a punt, the Cardinals quickly went up 14-0 with Brooks rumbling for a 13-yard TD with 6:58 in the first.
Two plays later, including an interception from Harmony Grove’s James Webb, and the Cardinals were in full steamroll mode, up 21-0 after Hilson hit Small again, this time from 10 yards away.
The scoring didn’t stop there as Harmony Grove went up four scores on a short 11-yard strike from Hilson to Logan Whitely, still in the first quarter.
Bismarck would get on the board in the half, using an 89-yard pass and a 2-yard run to cut the Cardinals lead to 28-7.
Harmony Grove, though, would tack on two more scores before halftime, giving the ball to Brooks from 6 yards away and Jayce Harrison from a yard away.
Harmony Grove’s defense would hold the Lions to minus-12 yards on the ground, tallying eight tackles for loss and three sacks on the night.
Overall, the Cardinals would outgain Bismarck 357-118.
With its first 5-3A win under its belt, Harmony Grove looks to Week 6 and a highly anticipated rematch with Jessieville (3-2, 1-1).
“Last year, after we lost to Jessieville (29-26), we had to scratch and fight and claw just to get in the playoffs,” Calley said. “Every week was a playoff game for us. I feel like we let that one slip away. We had a two-touchdown lead. It left a bad taste in our mouth since last season. It is one we need to get this year.”
Jessieville fell hard to 5-3A foe Glen Rose (4-1, 2-0) on Friday, losing 42-14 at home.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Haskell.
Senior maid Leighton Withers was crowned 2017 homecoming queen prior to the opening kickoff.