The Harmony Longhorns overcame a slow start -- and running just six offensive plays in the first quarter -- to defeat Gateway, 41-21, and get their first victory of the year on Friday.
Harmony (1-1) rode the hand of quarterback Nate Herstich, who accounted for all six Longhorn touchdowns. He was 10-of-18 passing for 197 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for two scores on 1-yard runs. Caeleb Bass caught five passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns.
HHS Coach Don Simon said his team took a huge step from its Week 1 21-17 loss to Space Coast last week.
"I think the guys still had last week on their minds and started off on the schneid," he said. "Then they found a groove. The bounce back was just what we needed to get back on track."
The Panthers (0-2) forced Harmony into three-and-outs on their first two offensive series, then kept that offense on the sidelines by grinding the clock and the chains on a 13-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that chewed over seven minutes off the clock. First-and-goal from the 5 turned into third-and-22, but Maurice Adams flipped a screen pass to Phillip Bangura, who weaved through tacklers into the end zone.
Harmony's answer was swift; Herstich needed six plays and less than two minutes to take the Longhorns 56 yards and find Caeleb Bass in the corner of the end zone from 10 yards out.
Then after forcing a short punt and getting the ball at the 22, the offense needed just three plays to score when Justin Gleason hauled in a crossing pattern and scored from nine yards out to make it a 14-7 margin that carried into halftime.
Gateway again tried to steal away the momentum after halftime; Terrell Tyrell's 58-yard run on the first play of the third quarter set up Adams' three-yard TD strike to Tyreek Robinson, then they hooked up again on a two-point conversion for a 15-14 lead.
From there, Harmony mashed the gas hard. Herstich needed just over two minutes to answer and hit Bass from 11 yards out, the defense forced a punt and after a bad snap the offense was set up at the Panther 9 yard line. Herstich scored his rushing touchdowns on successive drives to make it 34-15 early in the fourth quarter.
Bangura returned an interception 54 yards to make it 34-21 with six minutes left, but the final Herstich-to-Bass hookup with 3:21 left iced the game.
"Our defense stepped up and stopped a good running game, Marlin (Roberts, GHS coach) as a heck of a football team that just got tired in the fourth quarter," Simon said. "But something like this is a sign we're getting everything put together and starting to roll with confidence."
Harmony will host new school Tohopekaliga next week, while Gateway welcomes St. Cloud, a 34-14 loser to Osceola in its annual rivalry game.
"With them being a new school, next week is a trap and I told the kids we need to be serious and have the best week of practice thus far, or we will get beat," Simon said of the Tigers, who fell in their first home game Friday, 32-6 to Dixie Hollins after taking a 6-0 lead.