WASILLA — The Houston coaching staff rolled the dice and the Hawks cashed in.
Trailing Eagle River 12-10 late with the Hawks set to punt deep in their own end, Houston elected to intentionally run out of the end zone for a safety. That pushed the Eagle River lead to four. But it all paid off for the Hawks in the end.
Gavin Mulhaney broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run and Owen Mulhaney ran in the ensuing two-point conversion with 69 seconds left in the game to lead the Hawks to an 18-14 win over the Wolves Saturday at Houston High School.
“We elected to take the safety to try to get some field position,” Houston head coach Glenn Nelson said.
Nelson said Owen Mulhaney came through with a great free kick, and the Hawks defense pushed the Wolves offense backward.
“We had great field position and were able to get the score and win,” Nelson said.
Nelson said it proved to be one of those pivotal moments when everyone truly came together.
“The coaches believe in the players and the players believe in the coaches,” Nelson said.
Houston’s first lead came with the game-winning score. Eagle River used a pair of touchdowns during the first three quarters to take the advantage, but the Mulhaney twins kept the Hawks in the game. Owen Mulhaney, Houston’s top option in the backfield, led the Hawks with 104 yards and a touchdown. Gavin Mulhaney, the signal caller behind center, added 88 yards and a score.
“They could be as good as any one-two punch in the state,” Nelson said of the twins.
Gavin Mulhaney put the Hawks on the scoreboard midway through the third, tackling the Eagle River punter in the end zone for a safety. That cut Eagle River’s lead to 6-2. Late in the third, Owen Mulhaney busted loose for a 66-yard scoring run, and notched the ensuing two-point conversion to cut Eagle River’s lead to 12-10.
Houston dressed only 20 players in the varsity game.
“We have 12 varsity players and a few who swing up to find a little depth wherever we can,” Nelson said.
Nelson praised his players for the comeback and the significance of the nonconference win. Eagle River is a Division II team that played in a state title game last year, and is a former large-schools program.
“As far as we’re concerned, with their numbers and size they’re still a large school,” Nelson said.
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.