GRETNA — William Campbell entered Friday’s annual bout with rival Gretna knowing it had to eliminate the big plays.
But the Hawks had other plans.
Gretna used quick, lengthy strikes and weaved through the field to score on a punt return to down the Generals and earn a 48-20 victory at Lester Bond Field.
It was Gretna’s second straight win in the series, one that mirrored last year’s 48-6 final.
“It feels good man,” Gretna running back Jorden Berger said. “We lost to them a couple years ago in a real close game, 21-20. So it was good to beat them this year.”
The Hawks (3-1) churned out 540 yards of total offense. Berger rushed for 157 yards and scored two touchdowns. Fellow running back Daelyn Miller led the way with 209 rushing yards and two scores.
The latest installment of the longstanding rivalry started out all William Campbell. The Generals (3-2) forced Gretna to fumble on its first two drives, and defensive lineman Zekeya Townes recovered the Hawks’ second fumble, running it 60 yards for an early 7-0 lead.
For Townes, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Division I recruit, it was a rare touchdown. He also had a couple sacks.
“I think that might be Zekeya’s first touchdown in his career,” Campbell coach Danny Broggin said. “Week in and week out, man, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. It doesn’t matter who we play. He doesn’t shy away from the limelight or the competition. And that’s why I think he’s one of the better defensive players in our district and in our area.”
Campbell took the early lead, but Gretna answered back three minutes later on a 45-yard sprint by Miller to tie the game.
Gretna took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter on a 42-yard punt return by Cameron Mabins (59 rushing yards) and then broke things open on a 63-yard scoring strike by Berger.
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks. All their touchdowns came seemingly out of the blue on long, wind-sucking runs.
“Gotta eliminate the big plays, that’s it,” Broggin said. “We take away the big plays, we’re good. I told you that was gonna win or lose us the game. We had to sustain drives on offense and we didn’t, either, and they beat us. We got beat by a good football team tonight.
“Some of it was missed tackles on our behalf, some of it was just good execution by them.”
With 8:35 left in the third quarter, Generals running back Ra’Shawn Stevens scored on an 80-yard punt return to close the gap to 28-14.
But it didn’t take long for the Hawks to answer back again, scoring on a 31-yard TD by Berger and a 45-yard score by Mabins, his second of the night. Berger’s 31-yard score was Gretna’s shortest touchdown of the night.
Miller and Berger put the biggest hurt on the Generals, combining for 366 rushing yards.
“We’ve got two big guns we can shoot in the backfield together, with Berger and Miller,” Gretna coach Cole Simpson said. “From week to week it could be either one of them.
“It could be Jorden with the big night, it could be Daelyn with the big night. And quite honestly, it could be Cam Mabins with a big night. … Any of those guys can go at any time.”
Simpson wasn’t content with the way Gretna played. The Hawks committed two turnovers and allowed two scores on special teams. By contrast, the coach was pleased with last week’s performance at Radford, even though Gretna fell 21-20 in overtime.
“I didn’t think we played our best game,” Simpson said. “It’s hard to play spectacular two weeks in a row. … I thought last week we did have a spectacular performance. We executed extremely well [last week]. And we didn’t play to that same level tonight, I don’t think. We still played good enough to win the game, but we didn’t play to the level we were capable of playing.”
Berger was happy with the way his team responded after Campbell’s opening touchdown.
“When we go down we’re not getting down on each other,” he said. “We’ve got to make a play. Capitalize. Take the momentum away from the opposite team.”
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.