It was the tale of two halves, as the Nashville Hornets turned up the heat in the third quarter on Saturday to push ahead of the Mendon-Unity Mustangs, winning 48-20 at Hornet Field to advance to the next round of the Class 2A playoffs.
The Hornets scored first after a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Connor Gladson, a 27-yard drive that started with an interception from senior Nolan Heggemeier. The Mustangs answered back with a score of their own, ending the first quarter in a 7-7 tie.
Senior Isaac Turner would help the Hornets take back the lead with a 15-yard touchdown at 11:50 in the second. Nashville would score again after a 22-yard run into the end zone by senior Ian Blazier. Mendon-Unity would then put one more on the scoreboard as time expired the half, making it 21-14.
The third quarter was all Nashville. Blazier ran it in for a 23-yard touchdown at 8:33, and after the Hornets recovered an onside kick, he was back in the endzone after an 11-yard pass from quarterback Kolten Gajewski.
The defense during the second half also put the pressure on Mendon-Unity, with three interceptions in three minutes during the third quarter. Senior Kade Ridgeway picked off a pass at the 7-minute mark, and after the Hornets turned it over with an interception of their own, Kaden Gajewski caught a pass to bring back the possession.
Showing more of his passing game Saturday, Gajewski connected with Turner for a 23-yard pass to set up Nashville even further, 42-14, at the 4:46 left in the third. A couple of plays later, the Hornets would get the ball back after Blazier picked off an interception.
The Hornets’ last score of the game was a whopping 53-yard pass to Turner for his third touchdown of the day. The play would go on to seal the deal and send Nashville to its second consecutive appearance in the second round of the state tournament.
Eduardo Garibay was six for seven in extra kicks on the day.
The sixth-seeded Hornets will now travel to Bismarck to take on the undefeated Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin (BHRA) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Blue Devils rolled over the Virden North Mac Panthers, 35-6 last Friday night.
BHRA went 5-0 to claim their conference title and average 41.8 points per game during the regular season.
The game next week will be a rematch of the 2019 postseason, where the Hornets beat the Blue Devils on their way to the state championship game.