HOUSTON — Since the Houston Hawks first fielded a football Program in 1997, the Eielson Ravens have had Houston’s number. But on Friday night the Hawks finally scored that elusive win over Eielson and notched one of their biggest victories in school history.
Houston upended defending state champion Eielson 64-21 in the Division III semifinals at Houston High. The Hawks now move into the ASAA Division III state championship game, and will play Barrow Oct. 19 at noon at Anchorage Football Stadium.
As the Hawks celebrated the opportunity to play in the state championship game for the second time in school history, longtime Houston defensive coordinator Jared Barrett reflected on Houston’s first win over Eielson, a longtime Alaska small schools power.
“I told Dave DeVaughn it’s an honor to finally beat him,” Barrett said after the win, referring to DeVaughn, Eielson’s longtime head coach and one of the top 5 winningest football coaches in state history. “I told him, I’ve been coaching this game for 16 years and I’ve been getting killed by you. It’s an honor to finally beat you.”
Barrett, a Houston player during the Hawks inaugural season of 1997, praised the work of his defense, which combined with the special teams to force six turnovers.
“I am so incredibly proud of this defense,” Barrett said. “They are buying into the system. We have a game plan every week, and they’re believing in it.”
The Hawks used a 29-point third quarter to beat Eielson for the first time, stay undefeated at 9-0 and advance to the title game for the second time in four years. Three Eielson turnovers in the third quarter led to Houston touchdowns. But the effort started during the first defensive series of the second half, Barrett said.
“We said this series on defense is the most important series of the game,” Barrett said.
Eielson received the third-quarter kickoff and was forced to punt after only three plays. Jeremiah Barrett sacked Eielson quarterback Payton DeVaughn for a nine-yard loss that pinned the Ravens on their own 16-yard line.
“We wanted to pin them deep,” Jared Barrett said. “This was going to change the tide of the game. If we let them march down and score, that will give them the momentum.”
Eielson was forced to punt, and it was Houston that would march down for a quick score. Three plays later, Owen Mulhaney scampered in for a 5-yard score. It was the first of three straight touchdowns for Mulhaney in the third quarter alone. Mulhaney’s next two scores were set up by fumbles recovered by the Houston special teams.
“The special teams on kickoff, getting the ball, that led to a little scoring frenzy,” Barrett said. “That buries teams. That’s hard to come out of.”
Mulhaney added scores of 32 and 11 yards during a 90-second span. Tolupo Falaniko added a 9-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks blew past Eielson in the third, but Houston’s biggest touchdown may have come during the final seconds of the second quarter. Eielson took an early 7-0 with the first of Will McManus’ two touchdowns in the game, but Houston answered with 21 straight points. Eielson’s Brandon Polesky scored on a 17-yard run with 2:06 left in the first half to cut Houston’s lead to six points. With only 31 seconds left in the second, Houston’s Kennedy Fono broke free for a 39-yard touchdown that pushed Houston’s lead to 13 points at the half.
“That was huge,” Mulhaney said after the win. “It was a big deal. It gave us a nice cushion.”
Houston rushed for 420 yards and eight touchdowns in the win. Fono led the Hawks with 168 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Mulhaney finished with 123 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries. Mulhaney’s twin brother, Gavin, Houston’s quarterback, added 96 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
“Unreal,” Owen Mulhaney said of Houston’s offensive line. “The block all of the way. They never give up.”
Eielson, also known for a run-heavy attack, was held to 200 yards on the ground.
“They can run the football,” Barrett said. “You saw that at the start of the game.”
Of Eielson’s 200 yards rushing, 84 came on its first scoring drive of the game. Barrett said the Hawks made adjustments on the field. But more than that the Hawks showed their resiliency, Barrett said.
“One of the best things about this team this year that we’ve lacked in the past, when we get down we’re fighting back,” Barrett said.
The Hawks have spent the 2019 making school history. The Hawks are 9-0 for the first time. Houston beat Barrow on the road this year for the first time. The win over Eielson was its first against the Ravens.
Now, the Hawks have another chance at school history with the chance to play for a state title.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Owen Mulhaney said.
Houston 64, Eielson 21
Division III semifinals
Friday, Houston High
Eielson — McManus 2 run (kick good) 6:12
Houston — G. Mulhaney 1 run (G. Mulhaney run) 3:04
Houston — G. Mulhaney 1 run (kick failed) 0.0
Houston — O. Mulhaney 3 run (Whitted kick) 8:43
Eielson — Polesky 7 run (kick good) 2:06
Houston — Fono 39 run (Whitted kick) 0:31
Houston — O. Mulhaney 5 run (Whitted kick) 8:19
Houston — O. Mulhaney 32 run (Whitted kick) 6:53
Houston ¬— O. Mulhaney 11 run (Whitted kick) 5:22
Houston — Falaniko 9 run (Whitted kick) 0:36
Eielson — McManus 1 run (kick failed) 11:01
Houston — Fono 29 run (Whitted kick) 4:48
RUSHING — Eielson: McManus 10-79, Polesky 5-105, Moore 5-7, DeVaughn 3-(-7), No. 11 2-15; Houston: O. Mulhaney 16-123, G. Mulhaney 13-96, Fono 10-168, Croghan 2-24, Faloniko 1-9.
PASSING — Eielson: DeVaughn 2-9-1—44; Houston: G. Mulhaney 0-3-0—0.
RECEIVING — Eielson: Holmly 2-44; Houston: none.