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Brode Jones breaks a run outside against Nemaha Central.

You could reliably expect the unexpected on Friday night, as Hiawatha travelled to Seneca to take on Nemaha Central. The game was dominated more by the slick football than either team, as the teams combined for seven turnovers in each half, but the Thunder found a rhythm in the second half, pulling away for the 38-14 win.

Hiawatha got off to a fast start, recovering a Nemaha Central fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Star junior receiver Michael Moreno made an outstanding play moments later, streaking down the sideline, then stopping on a dime and leaping to snatch an underthrown pass away from a defender to gain 27 yards, down to the Thunder three yard line. Quarterback Kaiser Isaac snuck in for a touchdown on the next play, putting the Red Hawks out front 7-0 less than a minute into the game.

After the teams traded possessions, Nemaha had a forty-yard pass to move the ball down the field, and cashed in a short touchdown run to even the score at 7-7. Hiawatha’s next possession ended in disaster, as they attempted to punt from their end zone. Moreno never got a good handle on the snap, and the ball eventually ended up in the ground, with the Thunder recovering in the end zone to grab a 13-7 lead.

Nemaha Central cashed in on a short punt to start the second quarter, running in a touchdown to take a 19-7 advantage. The Thunder would fumble on their next possession, though and again turned the ball over on their next possession, as the Nemaha quarterback struggled to hold onto the ball while passing and Caleb Pilcher snagged the ball out of midair and returned it to the Nemaha one. The turnover bug bit Hiawatha next, as they fumbled the ball on the ensuing possession, failing to get into the end zone. The Thunder went three and out after the fumble recovery, though, and kicked the ball back to the Red Hawks, who scratched together a pair of passes to Alan Simpson and Brode Jones to get back down to the goal line, where Isaac again wriggled into the end zone to pull within 5, as the score moved to 19-14.

Isaac had back-to-back up-and-down moments after Nemaha drove into Hiawatha territory, as he would intercept a Nemaha pass, then promptly throw an interception, but it was missed turnovers that nearly bit the Hawks before the half, as Moreno and Jones would each narrowly miss interceptions as the Thunder drove down toward the Red Hawk red zone as time ticked away in the half. But on fourth and ten with just eight seconds left from Hiawatha’s twenty-seven, the Thunder launched a pass toward the end zone, which bounced away from Isaac and landed in the hands of a Nemaha Central receiver. But the Hawks were able to ride the Thunder ball carrier to the ground at the one yard line as time expired, escaping the half with a one-score deficit.

The Red Hawks left the field feeling encouraged after the first half, but the second half was all Nemaha Central. The Thunder capitalized quickly on an interception to start the third quarter, going up 26-14 with just under a minute gone, and then the teams traded turnovers on their next three drives before Nemaha again struck pay-dirt with less than a second to go in the quarter to take a 32-14 lead. With Hiawatha in catch-up mode, the passing game failed the Hawks, as back-to-back drives ended with first-play interceptions, and Nemaha would finally capitalize with a long touchdown pass to take their final 38-14 lead with just over four minutes to go in the game. The teams battled back and forth between the twenties as the clock ran out, pushing both teams’ records to 1-1 on the season.

Hiawatha will play host to the red hot Jeff West Tigers next week, while will look to build on their momentum as they travel to Holton.

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