Final Score Hennessey 22- Newkirk 14
The Hennessey Eagles and the Newkirk Tigers entered Friday night’s game with plenty on the line. Though both teams had already qualified for the postseason, the seeding of the district’s #3 and #4 teams were of great importance, with the loser drawing the District 2 Champion #7 Ranked Jones Longhorns and the winner getting the second-place Chandler Lions. Also of great importance for the Eagles was to not enter the playoffs on a losing streak following last week’s loss to the district champion Millwood Falcons, and to continue their dominance over the rival Tigers.
The Eagles did just that, but not without a fight. On a cold, rainy, and windy November night, the Eagles came out swinging. After Sophomore Jessin Hardin returned the opening kickoff 48 yards, setting the offense up at the Newkirk 35, the Eagles wasted no time with Langston Smith catching the first of his 2 Touchdown Passes from Titan Hix just 4 plays later.
Then it was the Tigers turn. Following a perfectly executed “watermelon” kickoff from Luis Macias-Montoya to the 6 and a punishing tackle by Weston Smith on the return, Newkirk then marched 87 yards in 9 plays, aided by a defensive pass interference penalty, one third down conversion and one fourth down conversion, scoring on a 20-yard pass for their first TD.
With both teams missing their 2-pt conversion attempts, the game was tied at 6, and stayed that way into the 2nd period. After trading punts, an Eagles’ fumble after a long completion, and a Newkirk Turnover on Downs at the Hennessey 1, the Tigers finally broke the tie on a 4th down 28-yard wheel-route touchdown. This time the Tigers converted their 2-pt conversion run to take the lead 14-6 with 6 ½ minutes to play in the first half.
They would not score again. This game was won (and lost) with Eagles’ Discipline, Integrity, and Attitude (and the Tiger lack thereof). The Tigers’ lack of discipline had shown itself earlier in the game when a Newkirk defender was flagged for Unsportsmanlike Conduct following a tackle at the Hennessey 1 yard line. That lack of discipline got the Eagles out of the shadow of its own goal, flipping the field with a punt 4 plays later.
After the Tigers took the lead, their lack of discipline aided the Eagles in their touchdown scoring drive answer. With a 4th Down Flagrant Facemask call, a Defensive Pass Interference, and some unassessed unsportsmanlike behavior, the Newkirk team, and their integrity, began to unravel. Following pass completions to Sebastian Gonzalez and Langston Smith, Titan Hix then accounted for 35 of the 71-yard scoring drive on the ground, finishing with a 2-yard dive and a 2-pt. conversion pass to Seth Simunek, tying the game 14-14 one minute and thirty seconds after Newkirk’s short-lived go ahead score.
The Eagles’ Defense, and their accountability to one another, then seized control of the game. After the Tigers scored their last points at the 6:38 mark of the 2nd quarter, they had seven offensive possessions the remainder of the game, resulting as follows: Interception (Seth Simunek), Turnover on Downs (Cam Griffin QB Sack), Punt, Downs, Interception (Seth, again), Fumble (Kevin Trillo recovery), and Interception (Brandon Valles).
After Simunek’s 2nd interception and 23-yard return, the Eagles capitalized with a 9 play, 57-yard drive, helped (once again) by a Newkirk DPI, but most-impressively a Seth Simunek 30-yard highly contested catch along the Eagles’ sideline, finishing the drive with a 4th down 3-yard TD catch by Langston Smith, his second of the game. Hix ran in the 2-pt. play to give the Eagles the lead with 7:30 to play.
Brandon Valles put the final nail in the Tiger coffin with his first interception of the season (second of his career), ending the Newkirk hopes, giving the Hennessey Eagles the 22-14 District win and 3rd Place Seed going into the playoffs.
Valles ended his final regular season game with 6 Total Tackles and 1 Interception. Junior DE Cam Griffin added 7 Tackles with 1 Quarterback Sack, his 6th this season, with Jessin Hardin pulling down 6 Tackles from his Linebacker position. Zack Tillman and Mauricio Valles each recorded 1 Sack apiece for the Eagles.
But the Eagles Defensive Player of the Game was by far Seth Simunek. The Senior Safety led the team with 12 Total Tackles and 2 Pass Interceptions (his team-leading 5th and 6th of the season).
Simunek’s 4 catches for 86 yards puts him at 1004 yards on the season, becoming only the 3rd player in Hennessey High School history to go over 1000 in a single season (Rob Simunek 1088 in 1990; Jose Sanchez 1128 in 2014). With 1663 yards, Seth now trails his father Rob by only 5 yards for 3rd place in HHS Career Receiving Yards (Barry Crosswhite 1980 Yds; Jerry Ashcraft 2529 Yds).
Through the wind and the rain and the pressure, both real and figuratively, Titan Hix still had an outstanding night bringing his team the victory. The freshman QB ran for 60 yards with 1 Touchdown and 2-point conversion run, and completed 18 passes for 240 yards and 2 TDs and 1 conversion throwing. Titan now stands alone with the most Single Season Passing Yards (2365) and Single Season Passing TDs (24) in HHS history.
The Hennessey Eagles (7-3 Overall, 5-2 District 2A-1) earned the 3rd Place Seed and a trip to the Chandler Lions (also 7-3, 5-2) for the opening round of the 2022 Oklahoma Class 2A State Championship Playoffs. Game time is 7:00 pm next Friday night, November 11th at Lions Stadium. The road to the gold ball begins now. Eagle Voice~Photos by Kenda Copeland