Clutch defense, long passes key Hayfield in win over Mount Vernon

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Hayfield quarterback Chase Soper walked a little gingerly to the team bus after the Hawks 34-18 victory at Mount Vernon on Friday evening. In addition to throwing a season-high four touchdown passes, the junior ran for another and led the Hawks in rushing yards. So it’s understandable if he was worn out afterwards.

“A little bit,” Soper said with a smile after being asked if he was tired. “But we won though, so at the end of the day I feel great.”

Soper wasn’t the only Hawk feeling great Friday night. For the second year in a row, Hayfield (5-1) gave Mount Vernon (5-1) their first loss of the season in the Gunston District opener for each squad. The Hawks overcame a slow start before breaking the game open behind Soper’s passing and a defense that made big plays when it had to.

Early on though, Mount Vernon outplayed Hayfield. Twice in the first quarter the Majors drove into the Hawks’ red zone. Kicker Samuel Renzi scored the only points of the quarter on a 36-yard field goal after one drive, but that’s all the Majors would get.

Hayfield senior defensive back Jayden Lenore picked off a pass on 3rd and goal to snuff out a Majors’ drive, and another Mount Vernon turnover early in the second quarter helped the Hawks begin taking control of the game. Senior defensive lineman Marquez Perdue recovered a fumble deep in Mount Vernon territory,  and moments later Soper capped a short drive with a three-yard score to give Hayfield a lead it would never relinquish.

After Mount Vernon turned the ball over on downs with a little more than two minutes before halftime, Hayfield showed how its speed can quickly change a game. Soper hit sophomore wide receiver Scott Woods on a short slant pass that turned into an 85-yard TD when Woods pulled away from a tackle and sprinted all the way to the end zone. The TD put Hayfield up 14-3 at the half, and another Soper-to-Woods slant in the third quarter turned into a 75-yard touchdown and seemed to break the back of the Majors.

The long TDs were the 8th and 9th scoring play of more than 40 yards for the Hawks this season.

“I’ve got some fast receivers,” said Soper, laughing. “I mean throwing a slant, [Woods] running 80 yards or whatever, it’s just really nice. Really helps the stats, you know?”

Soper would put the game away with two more TD passes, this time to senior receiver Tim Drummond-Wiggins.

On the other side of the ball, Hayfield’s first-team defense only allowed one touchdown on the night, coming up with two interceptions and four fumble recoveries to derail Mount Vernon’s high-octane offense. The Majors moved the ball hand had some big runs, particularly by quarterback Fonnae Webb, who showed the ability to keep plays away by scrambling and changing direction on a dime.

But whenever the Majors found a little momentum, the Hayfield defense tightened up. Two Mount Vernon drives stalled and ended in missed field goals, and senior safety Patrick Zhang killed a huge Mount Vernon threat after the Hawks bungled a punt and turned the ball over deep in their own territory early in the third quarter.

Zhang, who played receiver last season, picked off a pass meant for Mount Vernon’s Kofi Kwarteng. The INT was Zhang’s third so far this year — including one to clinch last week’s win against Robinson.

Zhang said Hayfield’s defense, which starts eight seniors, came into the season knowing they can be a special group.

“Our defensive unit right now is full of senor leaders,” Zhang said. “I think that’s the main reason we’re so good. The seniors on this year’s team are so focused.”

The Majors, who had averaged 50 points a game coming into the night, were only able to get into the end zone on a perfectly executed trick play in the third quarter and on a late TD against Hayfield’s reserves. The trick play was a thing of beauty, fooling everyone in the stadium:  Webb found running back Jordyn Reid all alone on the sideline after Reid had positioned himself there following the previous play. Hayfield failed to notice, and Webb lobbed it to Reid for the easiest 72-yard touchdown of the season.

But much of the second half was tough sledding for Mount Vernon. Perdue, who managed to make himself a presence in Mount Vernon’s backfield all night despite a sore back, said the win served notice that Hayfield’s defense is just as much of a force as their offense.

“[Other teams] are going to stop sleeping and learn we’re stepping up,” Perdue said.

Notes:

— Hayfield had two girls score in the game, with place kickers Elly Gorham and Madison Miller each booting extra points.

— In other Gunston District action, T.C. Williams (3-3) topped West Potomac (2-4) 35-13, while Annandale (1-5) fell to Marshall 18-15 in a non-district matchup.

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