There were times, especially in the first half, when the St. Joe defense went after Pruitt, forcing him to make mistakes. One of his mistakes was an interception that he threw on the Hawks’ first possession of the game.
As the game progressed, Pruitt gained more and more confidence as he ran the offense better with more poise.
With the Hawks trailing 7-6 with less than five minutes left in the game, Pruitt made his biggest play of the night. He threw a pass to a wide open Octavius Stimmage, who ran down the Hawks’ side of the field to finish off a 76-yard touchdown pass which proved to be the game-winner in Shaw’s 12-7 win over the Fighting Irish.
“I know my receiver, and I have confidence in him,” Pruitt said. “I just put it on the money where he could catch it.”
Pruitt ended up completing 7-of-13 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown and an interception to lead the Hawks’ offense. He also rushed for 72 yards on 14 carries.
“He’s growing up,” Shaw High head coach Kendrick Smith said about Pruitt. “This is his first year as a full time starter. He’s still got a lot of improvement to make, but he’s getting much better and he’s going to be a good one before his done.”
Shaw, ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press 1A Poll, improved to 3-1 with a 1-0 mark in the region, while St. Joe fell to 2-2 with an 0-1 mark in region play.
The late touchdown pass didn’t deter St. Joe from giving it one final chance to win the game. The Hawks had their backs against the wall on defense as St. Joe’s Raines Rester completed two passes in a row playing in a no-huddle offense to get into Shaw territory. After the second completion, the Hawks called a time-out.
When play resumed, the Fighting Irish handed the ball off twice in a row to J’daylan Jackson. Jackson gained yardage on both runs to put the Irish at the Hawks’ five-yard line.
With the team ready to score, things started to go wrong for St. Joe as two straight penalties pushed the Fighting Irish back to the Hawks’ 15-yard line. The Fighting Irish would hand the ball off to Jackson again, but the Hawks’ defense stepped up as Ledavius Rice tackled Jackson to force him to fumble the football. Olijadade Blakes ended up recovering the ball to give the Hawks possession with less than two minutes to go at their own 1-yard line. Shaw was able to move the ball and run down the clock to secure the win.
“I knew my defense was going to hold it down,” Pruitt added.
The game was a defensive battle from the start. Shaw was pinned deep in its own territory through out the first half, but was able to keep St. Joe at bay.
Christopher Harthone, and Pruitt ran the ball well on offense for the Hawks, while Lerandel Allen made some clutch tackles-for-loss with Xavious Loggins coming up with a fumble recovery on defense for Shaw.
St. Joe’s defense battled hard as the Hawks had their own troubles putting points on the board.
In the middle of the second quarter, the Hawks’ offense was making progress as Pruitt completed a key 17-yard pass to Keveon Shepherd to move the Hawks’ to the St. Joe 3-yard line for a first down. With 5:15 left in the half, Harthone, who rushed for a game-high 80 yards on 17 carries, put the Hawks on top as he marched into the end zone from three yards out. The point after kick was no good, but Shaw led 6-0 at halftime.
The Fighting Irish were finally able to break the scoreboard with 39.3 seconds left in the third quarter as Rester scored on a 3-yard TD run. Jacob Reifers connected on the PAT kick to give the Irish a 7-6 lead. Those points would eventually wrap up the final scoring for St. Joe. The Fighting Irish was held to 197 yards of offense, while the Hawks racked up 346 yards.
Allen had a big game on defense for the Hawks as he racked up a game-high 13 tackles with a sack. Rice racked up nine tackles to aid Shaw, followed by Harthone and Demerrius Williams with eight stops each and Jasprell Dillard with seven tackles.
On offense for Shaw, Stimmage was the team’s leading receiver with three catches for 86 yards with a touchdown, while Lekia McRoy aided the ground attack with 44 yards on seven carries.
For St. Joe, Jackson rushed for 79 yards to lead the offense, followed by Hunter McGaugh with 54 yards on 10 carries. Rester completed 3-of-7 passes for 49 yards and rushed for 19 yards with a touchdown on seven carries to aid St. Joe.
On defense, Jonathan Bell led the Fighting Irish with 11 tackles, followed by Arrington Smith with nine tackles, Ryan Jackson with five tackles including two sacks and Michael Long with an interception.
The Hawks will be back in action on Friday as they will hit the road to McAdams for another Region 2-1A showdown.