ELDRIDGE — For a while, it looked as if North Scott’s defense was going to give the offense a run for the money in scoring points during Friday night’s Class 3A playoff opener against Waverly-Shell Rock.
Back-to-back interception returns for touchdowns by the Lancers’ Collin Lewis and Mason Watts in the first five minutes of the third quarter were the difference in leading North Scott (9-1) to an eventual 39-9 win over the Go-Hawks.
The teams fought to a near standstill in the first half and traded field goals before the Lancers put together a nine-play drive with just under three minutes left in the first half to edge ahead 9-3 at the break.
But it was the two big plays by Lewis and Watts that shifted the momentum to the home team and put the visitors in a big hole. Both Lewis and Watts stepped in front of slant routes from Go-Hawks quarterback Luke Velky.
Lewis returned his 52 yards for a score on the Go-Hawks’ first possession of the second half while Watts returned his 50 yards for a touchdown the next time W-SR had the ball. A close game was suddenly 23-3 for the home team with 7:01 left in the third quarter.
“Football is a momentum game, and when those (interceptions) occur, it’s just not the way you want to finish,” Go-Hawks coach Mark Hubbard said.
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North Scott’s defense kept the Go-Hawks in check the rest of the way after helping snag the lead.
Velky finished the game 8-for-17 for 89 yards and the two interceptions and was sacked twice. Go-Hawks running back Ben Hemer had 139 yards on 29 carries, but the other four runners, including Velky, ran for a total of 49 yards on 19 attempts. W-SR also only converted four of its 15 third-down attempts.
Hemer had the only TD for the visitors when he caught a pass and scored from 63 yards out with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
Despite the defeat, Hubbard was proud of his team, which finished 8-2 and runner-up in the district.
“One of the things I told them was, ‘Thank you,’” Hubbard said. “I told the seniors thank you for giving us coaches and fans a team that everyone really could be proud of and a team that we could cheer for. They are everything that is good about Waverly-Shell Rock.”