The Holland College Hurricanes marched down the field late in the fourth quarter to get their first win of the Atlantic Football League season Sunday at UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place in Charlottetown.
They defeated the defending league champion UNB Red Bombers 27-20 to improve to 1-1.
Trailing 20-19 with 1:50 remaining in the game, quarterback Christian Hackney connected with Jeff Hillier on a 17-yard catch on a third-and-10 play.
“It was unbelievable play. It basically kept the game alive. It gave us a boost and it’s what we needed,” Hillier said.
Hackney would complete passes to Hillier and Rodney Blaise for four consecutive first downs. He capped off the drive with a touchdown on a quarterback sneak.
“I just did my job and completed the passes as we marched down the field. I just had to focus and key in on what I had to do,” Hackney said.
The Hurricanes controlled the first half with a strong ground game led by running backs Arrien McDonald and Layton Aitken.
The Hurricanes led 10-1 after the first quarter on a Jay Dearborn field goal and a rushing touchdown by Hackney.
After the Red Bombers conceded two points on a safety, they tried to trick the Hurricanes on the ensuing kickoff by attempting an onside kick. Hurricanes’ linebacker Richard Lush took the ball almost 45 yards for the score, extending their lead to 19-1 before the half.
Lush said he was a late addition to the kickoff return team.
“Coach comes aside and said ‘Lush, go in, go in.’ I go in and I see the kicker staring at me,” he explained. “I get the luckiest bounce in my life, and I’m a defensive player so whenever I get the ball I’m running. It felt fantastic, anything I can do to help team is great.”
The Hurricanes’ offence was stagnant for most of the second half while the Red Bombers took advantage, scoring on multiple drives.
The Red Bombers closed the gap to 19-8 late in the third.
A Hurricanes’ fumble shortly after led to a Red Bomber field goal bringing them to 19-11 heading to the fourth.
They scored six on a touchdown early in the final quarter and later took the lead, 20-19, on a field goal.
The crowd was visibly shocked by the 19-point turnaround, but the Hurricanes refused to roll over and orchestrated the game-winning drive.
“We came through when it mattered most,” Lush said.
“I was proud of the whole team for keeping faith in each other,” added head coach Mark MacDougall. “We could have folded but we found a way to scratch out a win. We definitely grew a bit as a team today.”