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Hawks come back to defeat Momence 28-21 to win season opener

Trailing Momence 21-13 and facing a fourth down early in the third quarter, Oregon’s football team needed a spark. They got one on the very next play, as Ashton Rutherford ran for a 56-yard touchdown.

“That was the biggest gap I’ve seen,” said Rutherford, who broke free from the line of scrimmage behind the blocks of tackle Travis Burke and end Josh Cook. “All the credit goes to the line”

Rutherford wasn’t finished. The next time he touched the ball, he broke five tackles on his way to a 15-yard score and 28-21 Hawk lead. That would hold up for the final margin of victory in a re-scheduled home opener.

“I don’t know what got into him,” Burke said.

“That play was pretty crazy,” Rutherford said. “When they hit me, I used a hip twist move I learned in wrestling to get out of the tackles.”

For a fourth-quarter encore, the 5-8, 170-pounder made like a rugby player and carried the scrum five yards on a third-and-11 situation to keep a drive alive and then clinched the win with a 7-yard run on fourth down, all part of 121 second-half rushing yards.

“Two things he did that stood out were crediting his offensive line when he scored and sliding down after getting that last first down,” Oregon coach John Bothe said.

With Rutherford providing the offensive fireworks in the second half, it was stellar Hawk defensive effort for the final three quarters that also stood out.

Other than a 24-yard scoring pass early in the third quarter on a short field, the Hawks bottled up 6-5, 215-pound junior quarterback Aaron Cantwell, a legitimate college prospect.

A diving interception by Pierce Dhaese halted a fourth-quarter drive after the Redskins advanced into

Oregon territory. Later in that quarter, sophomore Matt Crandall pressured Cantwell into throwing a duck that safety Garrett Rude picked off.

“They executed better than us on offense and had a good defensive plan,” Momence coach Matt Fox said. “They wore us down.”

“We came off the ball quicker and were more physical. They had a lot of guys playing on both sides and they started to wear down,” said Burke, himself a 2-way lineman.

Speedster Nick Newman set up Oregon’s first score with a 54-yard sweep over the right side. Fullback Sawyer Reynolds crashed over from one yard out for an early 7-0 Hawk lead.

After Momence took a 14-7 lead on a pair of touchdown passes to Tre Spears, it was a 40-yard kick-off return by Newman that helped Oregon close the gap. On fourth-and-goal, quarterback Tyler Blume connected with the rangy Dhaese for a 4-yard touchdown pass.

Blume, who was proficient in the directing the offense all night, found a favorite target in Dhaese. It was a 2-point conversion from Blume to Dhaese that tied the game at 21-21 and a 27-yard pass play between the two that set up Rutherford’s final score.

“Oregon is well-coached and disciplined. And, they tackled better than us,” Fox said.

That discipline could be found in the final statistics, which showed only one 5-yard penalty for Oregon, compared to numerous for Momence.

“We focused on our mental toughness throughout the pre-season,” Burke said.

Burke and Crandall combined for five tackles of losses, including a crushing blow to Momence running back Tony Greenwood by the 280-pound Crandall.

“This was a big win. We needed this to start the season,” Rutherford said.

Oregon travels to Harvard on Friday. The Hornets defeated Rock Falls 47-16, in a game that didn’t end until after midnight on Friday due to weather delays.

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