URBANA — Urbana safety Jason Kolar took some of the blame for his team’s early 14-point deficit against Oakdale.
And the Hawks’ Kyle Howes guessed one of his extra-point attempts got blocked because he didn’t kick the ball quick enough.
If those two were responsible in any way for such potentially costly things, it’s safe to say they redeemed themselves.
After Howes kicked a go-ahead 27-yard field goal with 4 minutes, 29 seconds left, Kolar made his first career interception to help seal Urbana’s 23-21 win over the Bears on Friday.
Beating a quality team like Oakdale was gratifying enough for the Hawks, but it was all-the-more uplifting coming a week after their season-opening 41-7 loss to Walkersville.
“Last week was a struggle, getting blown out like that. No one liked that,” Howes said. “We were all talking in our group chat. It’s not that we want to win — we have to win.”
That mindset motivated the Hawks in the fourth quarter, when they found themselves trailing 21-20 after Oakdale’s Garrett Witt — who rotated at quarterback most of the night with Joe Pippin — threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Brayden Kuhn with 8:12 left.
Throwing to Tariq Meredith and running back Eric Kolar, Howes directed a drive that started at his own 36 and left the Hawks with a fourth-and-6 from Oakdale’s 10.
The Hawks opted to try a field goal. Howes kicked a couple of them last season, but none of those were this pressure-packed.
“Nerve-wracking, that’s the only word I can use,” he said. “I’ve never been put in that situation before. With the game on the line, I felt like if I make it, we win; if I miss, we lose.”
Blocking out the blocked extra point kick in the third quarter, Howes converted.
“We know he can do it, and fortunately it worked out for us,” Hawks coach Brad Wilson said. “He did a good job, good concentration, good snap, good hold, because a lot of things can go wrong in that situation.”
“Thank you, Kyle,” is what Jason Kolar said he thought while watching Howes’ kick sail between the uprights.
Kolar had little time to savor that moment, though. He and Urbana’s defense had to prevent the Bears from mounting another scoring drive.
On first-and-10 from Urbana’s 47, Witt was under pressure as he released a pass. Kolar made the takeaway, giving the Hawks possession on their own 34 with 1:30 left.
“Our coach put in a whole playbook. We studied so hard for this game,” Kolar said. “Our D-line pressured them, and our D-backs just made a play. Our D-backs, we let up early in the game, and our D-line was pushing through the entire game, and we finally made up for those plays in the beginning.”
When asked about his team’s early 14-point deficit, Kolar said, “That was me, that was our D-backs. The D-line pressured so well tonight, and they came up big again [at the end], and we were just there for the play.”
Andrew Hodges helped stake Oakdale to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, catching a 41-yard touchdown pass from Witt and running for a 1-yard score.
That second touchdown was set up by Cameron Dorner’s intercepetion.
But Oakdale also had trouble with turnovers — Urbana had two interceptions — as well as penalties.
“We can’t commit penalties and have turnovers and win,” said Bears coach Kurt Stein, whose team was playing its opener after last week’s game against Linganore got canceled because of coronavirus precautions. “We had two big turnovers, and I lost track of how many penalties.”
Meanwhile, Urbana’s defense was tightening up, and its run-first offense was mounting drives.
Eric Kolar (112 yards on 18 carries) scored on runs of 3 and 22 yards in the second quarter, and Howes scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter to give the Hawks their first lead of the game, 20-14.
“Give credit to the kids, down 14-0. They hung in there. I think we were a little shell-shocked early,” Wilson said. “Working through adversity, and defense stepped up at the end, offense had a good drive at the end.”