SAN ANGELO - You never know how Hawley will strike, which is why the unbeaten Bearcats are ranked No. 2 in the state.
Hawley turned to its tall, athletic receivers for big plays early in the game, then let running back Austin Cumpton rumble in the second half. But key defensive plans, including a 92-yard run after a strip-fumble and an interception on a conversion returned for two points, also powered the Bearcats to a 57-26 Class 2A Division I third-round win over Sonora here Saturday night.
The win sets up a Region I championship rematch with Cisco, which took down New Deal 33-15 on Friday. Hawley won 17-14 last year at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene on its way to the state final. The rematch will be played Friday at Wildcat Stadium on the Abilene Christian University campus.
Hawley is 13-0 while Sonora ends its season at 10-3.
"They're not bad, huh?" Sonora coach Blake Weston said of Hawley. "That's a really good football team. I hope they go out and win it."
To put an exclamation point on how Hawley can win games, the Bearcats' first touchdown was made by ... an offensive lineman.
Cumpton, who rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns, was churning for yards with three Sonora players trying to pull him down inside the 10. Cumton was stripped of the football, which hit a Sonora player and fell to the turf. Kenny Moore, who goes 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, deftly picked it up and walked it into the end zone.
It was his first touchdown. Ever.
"The outside linebacker stripped the ball and I saw it all happen. I ran up to that thing, picked it up and scooped and scored," Moore said, smiling broadly. "First touchdown I've had my high school career. I'm a senior now.
"I had to do a little something in the end zone. You know how it is, a fat man doesn't get to do too much."
That unlikely touchdown was followed by another opportunistic play for the 'Cats.
Down 8-0, an interception by Jaime Buitron set up Sonora at the Hawley 49 and on the first play of the second quarter Edger Deluna burst 37 yards to the Bearcats 14.
He got the call again and had gained six yards when Will Scott emerged from a scrum with the football for Hawley. He raced 92 yards the other way for a touchdown. A two-point conversion gave Hawley a 16-0 lead.
That play took starch out of the Broncos.
"We turned it over early. That strip-fumble took away the momentum," Weston said. "We had to play cleaner in the first half. The No. 2 team in the state, we can't make those mistakes early on."
Hawley coach Mitch Ables admitted it took his team a while to get going on offense.
"We have to get going sooner," Ables said. "We kind of sputtered around in the first quarter again. That's two weeks in a row, and we can't do that in the playoffs. They're getting better every week now. We've got to get started early."
But when Hawley did, the best weapons were receivers Chandlin Myers (6-3) and Diontay Ramon (6-2).
Quarterback Rodey Hooper put the football where his receivers could make plays. And they did.
'It's one of those deals where you've seen it coming in and but are unsure until you see it. They were playing man-to-man on the outside and I felt like our receivers could get the job done, and we threw it pretty effectively to those outside guys," Ables said. "Let's go. Let's throw it over their head.
"Diontary and Chandlin made some really great catches."
Ramon had six catches for 144 yards and Myers four for 115.
Ramon caught back-to-back TD passes in the second quarter, one for 24 yards and other for 34. Myers caught a 3-yarder on a slant in the fourth quarter.
Ramon said it's "relying on our quarterback and line to do their assignments. Once they do their assignments, it makes it a whole better for me to do my assignment with the ball, make a big play.
"We had a couple of mistakes, they're going to happen throughout the playoffs. We've just got to look past those plays and go on about it."
Hawley threw only five passes in the second half, all Hooper completions. One was 58 yards to Myers, who got his TD catch three plays later. Ramon did not have a catch in the second half.
With a 38-12 halftime lead, the Bearcats turned to Cumpton. After stopping Sonora on downs on its opening drive at the Bearcats 27, Hawley drove 63 yards on 12 plays with the senior back carrying eight times. He got the touchdown, too, taking a direct snap the final two yards.
Ables was able to pull his starters, and his son, backup quarterback Keagan, threw a 19-yard TD pass on a fourth-down play to freshman Drew Siller for the Bearcats' final points.
Though this one was all Hawley after the Bearcats outscored the Broncos 30-12 in second quarter, Sonora put up some big numbers. The Broncos rushed or 324 yards with its speedy triple-threat of Deluna, Buitron and Hunter O'Banon in the backfield.
Buitron rushed for 121 yards, Deluna 113 and O'Banon 90. Buitron and Deluna are juniors.
Deluna scored on a 34-yard run and 13-yard pass from Jonah Galvan, who took over briefly at quarterback when Buitron took a hard hit. O'Banon had two TD runs.
"I was proud of the way our kids played for four quarters," Weston said.
Said Ables, "Their quarterback, we knew he would run the ball. Our defensive ends, it took them a while to see what was going on. We've got to be better than we were early in the game.
Hawley amassed 507 yards on offense, with Hooper throwing for 285 and three scores.
The Bearcats welcomed back Scott and Kason O'Shields, who have been out with injuries.
O'Shields had an early interception in the red zone and picked off a Sonora two-point conversion pass for the final points of the first half.
Breaking it down
∎ Turning point: Down 8-0, Sonora intercepted Hawley's Rodey Hooper and got to the 14 after a 34-yard run by Edger Deluna. The officials for the most part let the players play and allowed a scrum to form on Deluna's next carry to the Hawley 8. There, Scott emerged with the football and raced 92 yards the other way. Instead of Sonora perhaps tying the game, Hawley now had a 16-0 lead on its way to a 38-12 halftime lead.
∎ Players of the game: Chandlin Myers and Diontay Ramon, Hawley High, receivers – Both players used their height and speed to make big players. Ramon had back-to-back TD catches in the first half while Myers caught a 58-yarder in the second half that set up his short touchdown catch The passing threat allowed Hawley to open up its running game.. Edgar Deluna, Sonora High, running back. Sonora was struggling until No. 1 began making big plays utilizing his blocking, then his speed. He had 113 yards on just seven carries and two TDs.
∎ Key stat: Although Kason O'Shields played in Saturday's game, returning after a leg injury, the versatile player was not used as a receiver, nor was his team's kicker. Hawley went for two after its first two touchdowns then used a committee to kick. Perhaps the biggest applause came when senior Bobby Bell booted a PAT in the fourth quarter. Otherwise for Hawley, it really was hit and miss. A side note: It was O'Shields' field goal that was the difference in Hawley's 17-14 win over Cisco for the region title in 2021.
∎ Coach Ables said: “It's good to have those guys (Scott and O'Shields) back. We feel good about them and they have a few more days to get healed up. I like where we are, especially health-wise. When you get this late in the season, you've got to have healthy bodies. We got a lot of young kids some time on the field." As for playing Cisco again. "It's our district. Two good football teams playing. It'll be a good time. I think you ask Coach (Kevin) Stennett and he'd tell you he wouldn't want it any other way."
∎ Coach Weston said: “A really good year. Winning 10 games First time getting to the third round in five years. Got good stuff to build off of. We're young."
∎ Impact: Hawley advances in the Class 2A Division I playoffs while Sonora ends its season.
∎ Up next: The Bearcats battle Cisco for Region I title in the state quarterfinals. Cisco dealt out New Deal 33-14. Hawley edged Cisco 36-33 for the district championship in Hawley in the regular season finale.
CLASS 2A DIVISION I PLAYOFFS
Hawley 57, Sonora 26
HAW− Kenny Moore 8 run (Chandlin Myers pass from Rodey Hooper), 3:26
HAW− Will Scott 92 fumble return (Keagan Ables run), 11:18
HAW - Diontay Ramon 24 pass from Hooper (Maddix Salazar kick), 9:16
HAW - Ramon 34 pass from Hooper (kick failed), 7:13
SON - Edgar Deluna 34 run (pass failed), 5:12
HAW - Austin Cumpton 3 run (Salazar kick), 2:46
SON - Hunter O"Banon 2 run (passed failed)
HAW - Kason O'Shields returns PAT pass
HAW− Cumpton 2 run (kick failed), 2:30
HAW− Myers 3 pass from Hooper (Bobby Bell kick), 10:34
SON - Deluna 13 pass from Jonah Galvan (Robert Rodriquez pass from Galvan), 7:36
HAW - Drew Siller 19 pass from Ables (kick failed), 3:49
SON - O'Banon 5 run (run failed), 2:02
RUSHING: Hawley, Austin Cumpton 22-124, Landon Sykora 2-26, Rodey Hooper 8-23, Keagan Ables 4-16, Kenny Moore 1-8, Allyn Barker 3-89. Team 1-minus-5. Sonora, Jaime Buitron 19-121, Edgar Deluna 7-113, Hunter O'Banon 19-90
PASSING: Hawley, Hooper 13-18-2-285. Ables 1-1-0-19. Sonora, Buitron 4-12-2-38, Jonah Galvan 1-1-0-13
RECEIVING: Hawley, Diontay Ramon 6-149, Chandlin Myers 4-115, Drew Siller 1-19, Marc Salas 2-12, Will Scott 1-9. Sonora, Dylan Ford 2-18, Galvan 1-17, Deluna 2-14.
RECORDS: Hawley 13-0, Sonora 10-3
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Hawley goes to its arsenal of scoring weapons to overpower Sonora