Two-point conversion lifts Hornets over Huskies 22-20

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By Carol McIntire


Friday’s non-league matchup between the Malvern Hornets and Harrison Central Huskies came down to the execution of two-point conversions.

Malvern converted twice on three attempts- the last coming when it mattered most- following a third quarter touchdown for an eight-point lead.  Harrison Central failed to convert following a fourth quarter touchdown that would have tied the game. Malvern won the game 22-20.

Harrison Central drew first blood late in the first quarter when Landon Thomas picked up a Malvern fumble and returned it to the Hornet’s 5-yard line. Mykel Quito went the final two yards for the score. The extra point kick was no good. The visitors led 6-0.

Coach Matt Chiurco’s team responded. On the ensuing drive. Quarterback Jared Witherow was flushed from the pocket, scrambled to his right and threw the ball back across his body to an open Rodney Smith racing across the middle of the field. Smith pulled in the pass and outran the Huskie defense 65 yards to the endzone. Witherow carried the ball into the endzone on the two-point conversion, but a holding penalty brought the ball back out for a retry, which failed. The score was knotted at 6-6.

Dylan Phillips capped of a 10-play 53-yard drive on a nine-yard scoring pass from Witherow with three minutes remaining in the second quarter. Witherow and Phillips connected for the two-point conversion and a 14-6 Malvern lead.

The Huskies threatened late in the second quarter with a drive to the Malvern 12-yard line. The Hornets halted the drive with a sack of quarterback Hayden Cassidy on a third-and-10 play with five seconds on the clock.

A reenergized Huskies team cameo out the locker room and forced a punt on Malvern’s first series. The offense quickly went to work. Starting on their own 22-yard line, the visitors mounted a nine-play drive that was capped off by a Blake Atkins two-yard touchdown Cassidy added the two-point conversion to tie the score 14-14 with 7:55 on the clock.

Malvern threated to score on the ensuing drive, marching the ball downfield 61 yards in 10 plays, but fumbled on the 1-yard line. Quito recovered on the 5-yard line.

The stingy Hornet defense forced a punt Phillips returned to the Huskie 33-yard line. Just when it looked like the drive would stall, on a third-and-10 call, Witherow found Phillips open over the middle. The 6-2 senior pulled the ball in and weaved his way through defenders for a 35-yard touchdown. Withrow’s pass to Drake Hutchison was good for the two-point conversion, which would be the difference in the game.

Cassidy completed a fourth down pass to Parker Hutton for a six-yard touchdown with 3:47 remaining in the game that brought the Huskies within two points and an opportunity to tie the game with the two-point conversion. McAfee was stopped on the attempt to secure the Hornet win.

“Our team, we are fighters,” Chiurco said following the game, noting his team went up against a larger team that had a lot of size. “We have a lot of fight in us, and our kids fought to the end.”

The coach said his team was ready for the challenge.

“We weren’t very happy after last week’s game. It just wasn’t a good performance. We really got on them at practice. We knew if we played like we did last week, we were going to get beat. Thankfully our kids were up to the challenge, and we played our best game yet.”

Harrison Central for no answer for Malvern’s passing game. Witherow completed 15 of 29 attempts for 233 of the team’s 333 total yards. Phillips was on the receiving end of seven passes, picking up 121 yards. Smith pulled in four passes for 86 yards.

Cassidy completed four of 17 passes for 35 yards.

Likewise, the Hornets had trouble containing the Huskies’ running game, which accounted for 218 of the team’s 253 yards on 42 carries. Quito picked up 145 yards on 31 carries.

Gore led the Malvern ground game with 35 yards on 12 attempts. Witherow added 44 yards on 11 carries to 79 of the team’s 100 yards.

Hutchison led the Malvern defensive effort with 10 tackles, one for a loss, and recovered a fumble. Gore tallied nine tackles, one for a loss and was credited with two sacks. Kyle Bossert had six tackles and a fumble recovery. 

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