WALL, TX — Despite half a dozen turnovers from Wall, the Mason Punchers failed to capitalize, and the Wall Hawks prevailed 14-6.
The Wall Hawks (3-1) hosted their longtime rival, the Mason Punchers (4-1), on their homecoming night, Sept. 30, at Clayton Weishuhn Stadium at 7 p.m. Hard defense from both sides kept the game a low-scoring affair, but Wall prevailed in the end with two critical offensive drives that ended in touchdowns.
After winning the coin toss, the Hawks deferred until the second half and their defense laced up their cleats first. In a trait that defined most of the first half, the Hawks allowed the Punchers little success on their first drive and forced them to punt the ball away. However, the snap went over the punter’s head during the punt as the punter scrambled to recover the loose ball. The Punchers took over on downs. At the end of the Puncher’s resulting drive, Mason managed to get off a desperation pass, but the ball fell incomplete. Wall took over in Mason’s territory at the 45-yard line.
The Hawks’ offense wasted little time in getting their ground game going. RB Nathan Pepper burst through the Punchers’ defensive front on two carries that covered 18 yards. TE Jayden Sellers then took the ball down the field, breaking more than three tackles in the process, to Mason’s 5-yard line. One play later, Pepper carried the rock the remaining five yards into the end zone for Wall’s first touchdown. The Hawks drew blood first, 7-0.
The Punchers failed to get into a rhythm as Wall stonewalled them behind the line again on their second possession. Mason tried to introduce the passing attack but failed to complete the pass. Wall forced another punt, and the Hawks took over at Wall’s 13-yard line.
The Punchers’ defense stepped up for their struggling offense on the ensuing drive. Wall continued to find holes in the defense to gain yards on the ground but decided to try a pass of their own. QB Gunnar Dillard winged a pass out wide, but a patient Puncher cornerback stepped in front of the pass and picked it off. He then carried the ball deep into the Hawks’ side of the field before Wall brought him down at the 12-yard line.
Mason did their best to capitalize on the interception but ran straight into the meat grinder. Wall’s defensive front kept up the pressure and denied every attempt to score. After three plays that went for little to no gain, the Punchers missed a field goal, and Wall took over at the 20-yard line.
The 2nd quarter turned into a stalemate where both teams traded punt after punt. Mason finally found some success through the air with less than six minutes until halftime. The Punchers forced a punt from Wall and began their drive at the Hawks’ 36-yard line. QB Ivan Wofford found RB Matthew King wide open for 26 yards to Wall’s 10-yard line. Three straight negative plays forced a field goal attempt, but the Punchers finally got on the board with 5:14 left in the 2nd quarter, 7-3.
Three straight turnovers from both teams ended the half. First, Wall fumbled the ball at midfield after the Punchers lifted the ball carrier and stripped the ball away. Next, CB Ryan Allen jumped a route and intercepted his first pass of the night. Two plays later, however, a poor snap caused another fumble by Wall that Mason recovered at Wall’s 44-yard line. Mason completed one pass to Wall’s 25-yard line and then kicked a field goal as time expired. The Hawks ran back to the locker room, clinging to a 1-point lead.
Wall’s first possession coming back out of the locker room looked much like their first possession of the game. Starting with the ball at Wall’s 40-yard line, Pepper continued to punish the Punchers on the ground, moving the sticks on several different carries. Inside Mason’s 25-yard line, the Hawks failed to convert a short 3rd down conversion, and Head Coach Houston Guy had a decision to make. The Hawks went for it on 4th down, and Pepper, although initially stopped behind the line of scrimmage, hauled three Punchers’ defenders across the first down marker. Three plays later, Pepper capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Wall increased their lead to 14-6 on a 15-play, 60-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off of the clock.
Mason matched the same intensity on offense that Wall showed coming out of the locker room. With the ball at the 15-yard line, the Punchers methodically pushed the ball down the field. Unlike the first half, most of the yards gained were through the air. QB Wofford connected with WR Brody Comey on several passes that moved Mason inside the Hawks’ 25-yard line. Wall’s defense then made a stand. Forcing the Punchers to a 4th and short scenario, the secondary locked Comey down, and the Hawks took over on downs. As the 4th quarter began, the Hawks still led by eight.
Wall’s offense struggled heavily throughout the entire 4th quarter. Production on the ground ended, and the center and the quarterback exchange continued to misfire. Wall put the ball on the ground multiple times, and Mason recovered three of them. The Hawks continued to play lockdown defense, forcing the Punchers to be one-dimensional in the passing game, but Wall never managed to put the game away. With less than a minute left in the 4th with the game all but won, Wall fumbled the ball while trying to kneel out the clock. Mason had one final chance to score with 22 seconds left in the contest. Wofford dropped back and launched a ball deep towards the end zone, but Wall’s CB Briggs Jones silenced Mason’s hopes of victory with an interception. Wall hung on to win, 14-6.
The Wall Hawks (4-1) open up district play next week, Oct. 7, when they host the Grape Creek Eagles (0-5) at Clayton Weishuhn Stadium at 7 p.m.