FARMINGTON – A satisfying moment of redemption for Gaven Earley, and another clutch run by reliable back Royce Harris helped Farmington save its football season on Friday night.
Harris changed directions and broke a tackle while notching his fourth touchdown run from 29 yards out with 2:40 to play, and the Knights topped Hillsboro 54-43 in a Class 4, District 1 playoff game.
Farmington (7-3) quickly blew a 14-point halftime lead, then rallied from two separate deficits during a wild fourth quarter to avenge a 36-34 road defeat from seven weeks ago.
Harris finished with 191 yards on 20 carries, and moved the chains twice on four straight runs with the Knights trailing 43-41 and desperately needing points.
A delayed option pitch then resulted in a three-yard loss, and Farmington soon faced fourth-and-3 at the Hillsboro 32 with their postseason fate arguably at stake.
Earley, who dropped a sure touchdown pass in the first battle against the Hawks, lunged just enough with second effort on his second carry of the game to convert at the 29.
Harris went the remaining distance on the next play, and the second-seeded Knights advanced to host Festus next week in the district semifinal round.
The deliberate triple option of Hillsboro (4-6) was forced to hurry from there, but moved backward on a huge tackle for loss by backup defensive end Carson Thomure.
Hawks quarterback Ethan Eckrich bobbled a third-down snap and was sacked by left end Rothman Harris on a fourth-down blitz. Kaden Files capped the victory on an 8-yard keeper with 1:02 remaining.
Farmington picked up a big defensive touchdown just before halftime. After Kael Krause landed a punt at the Hillsboro 1, Dalton Berg stripped the ball and Wyatt Westbrook covered it for a 34-20 lead.
But Hillsboro proved to be much tougher than its No. 7 seed would indicate, and needed less than five minutes to completely close the gap once the third quarter began.
Dylan Dace gained 24 yards on the first play out of intermission, and scored from the 5 on his sixth carry of the drive following an 11-yard burst from Dominic Crady through the middle.
Defensive lineman Seth Lowery recovered an immediate fumble by Files, and Dace continued a massive performance with an 18-yard touchdown before a Crady 2-point run squared the game at 34-34.
The Hawks continued to control the quarter by forcing a Farmington three-and-out as interior lineman Zach McNees stopped back-to-back running plays for no gain.
Hillsboro moved in front for the second time after a promising drive by the Knights stalled at the opposing 40 and resulted in a third consecutive punt.
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Dace, who compiled 268 yards on 30 carries overall, burned Farmington on a familiar sweep around the right side, racing 73 yards for his fourth and final touchdown.
The Hawks, who always attempt the two-point conversion, were stopped to leave their advantage at 40-34. It lasted for all of 17 seconds.
Junior fullback Tyler Barber burst through the second level untouched with a run off left tackle, and covered 58 yards for a touchdown on his longest varsity gain. Krause added the extra point.
Hillsboro used a similar play to respond with a scoring drive, but it could have been more productive as Eli Lamb tracked down Hayden Voyles on a 59-yard scamper to the Farmington 7.
Judd Cunningham made a key stop in the backfield, and Hillsboro committed a false start before Mark Moore kicked a 24-yard field goal to put the visitors ahead 43-41 with 6:52 to play.
Barber finished with 78 yards on six rushing attempts, and Carson Sutton approached double-digit tackles for the Knights. Files completed two of his three passing attempts.
Farmington ignited the high-scoring showdown just three plays into the action, as Royce Harris raced 41 yards after Lamb brought the opening kickoff across midfield.
Voyles answered with a 6-yard touchdown run on fourth down for the Hawks after Isaac Hamilton took a sweep 34 yards around the left side.
Hillsboro coaxed a punt after a long Harris sprint was called back by holding. Eckrich rolled right on a fake and flipped an 8-yard touchdown pass to Voyles following a 33-yard run by Crady,
Lamb got behind the defense on the ensuing series for a 37-yard catch, and Files followed with a 16-yard keeper on the first play of the second quarter to draw the Knights even at 14-14.
The first turnover of the game was a fumble recovered by Farmington sophomore Ryan Barnes at the Hawks’ 27, and Harris capitalized with an 8-yard touchdown run.
He struck again with an electrifying effort after Hillsboro went three-and-out. Harris juked away from an initial defender, spun past another after cutting, and found the right pylon for a 28-14 lead.
The Knights were on the brink of getting another huge stop after Rothman Harris and Alex Smith stuffed two running plays in the backfield.
But the Hawks called upon Dace while facing fourth-and-3 from their own 39, and he gashed Farmington for a pivotal 61-yard touchdown that continued an offensive slugfest.
Voyles had 90 yards on the ground, and Crady added 65 for Hillsboro before leaving the game with an injury. The Hawks ended their season on a five-game losing slide.