SPRING VALLEY – If there are still any doubts that Hall football is back, Friday night’s 28-27 comeback win over Kewanee should put that to rest.
For the second straight week, the Red Devils (5-3, 3-2) came from behind to win at home, sealing both wins with a Colin Aimone interception.
On Friday, Aimone intercepted Kewanee quarterback David Washburn in the Boilers endzone with 31 seconds left, picking off the pass one-handed and then securing the ball with both hands.
But, the Red Devils wouldn’t have been in that position without Aimone’s play on special teams.
After Kewanee went ahead 27-20 on an 11-yard Jared Nimrick touchdown catch with 2:20 remaining in the game, Aimone took the ensuing kick-off 84 yards for a touchdown.
“I didn’t have to do a thing, the blocks were all there,” said Aimone, who was still trying to catch his breath after the game. “I was so tired I thought I heard the footsteps behind me and the ball even came loose a couple of times. It’s an unbelievable feeling and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
Hall still trailed by one after the Aimone return, so Red Devils coach Randy Tieman decided to the roll the dice for the second time by going for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter while trailing by one point.
After failing on the first try when trailing 21-20, he called on sophomore back Chris Hammonds who converted a sweep for the go-ahead score.
“I was shocked,” said Hammonds when he got the call. “ I’m an underclassmen and it’s a lot of pressure but I don’t think about anything like that. We go out as a team and get it done.”
“I should have ran the speed sweep the first time maybe,” said Tieman. “I have confidence in our kids that they are going to make a play for us and they did.”
Things didn’t start as well for the Red Devils as Kewanee (6-2, 4-1) put the first two scores on the board with big plays, a 95-yard run by Ryan Hicks in the first quarter and a 97-yard keeper from Washburn in the second to make it 14-0.
Hall had a key score before the half ended when Taggart Venegas connected with Jake Merkel for an 8-yard touchdown catch with 12.5 seconds remaining. A 57-yard catch by Hammonds the play before set up the score.
Hall never led in the game until the final two minutes of the game, but they tied it at 14 on their first drive of the second half after Venegas hit A.J. Gaeta on a 21-yard slant.
Venegas third touchdown pass of the game, an out route to Hammonds for a 29-yard score with 22 of those yards coming after the catch, cut the Kewanee lead to 21-20 with 7:29 left in the fourth. His two-point pass to Aimone went incomplete, setting up the late game heroics.
Venegas finished 14-27 for 203 yards passing. The win makes the Red Devils playoff eligible with a chance to clinch a spot next week against Princeton.
Venegas says the Red Devils aren’t underdogs anymore.
“For us as a team we weren’t seeing ourselves as the underdogs,” he said. “We had high expectations as a team. We are not really worrying about what everyone else said around town or around the area.”
• The Red Demons improved to 6-2 on the season with a 39-14 victory in the sophomore prelim.