MECHANICSVILLE – When Sam Rogers led the Hanover Hawks from 2009 to 2012, he wore the number 10.
Nearly a decade later, an hour before game time Thursday night, now-head coach Rogers was sending his junior quarterback Cole Elrod through precision drills, getting some last minute footwork in before their season opener against the Monacan Chiefs.
Elrod’s feet, and his arm, got the bulk of the work for Hanover’s offense as the latest No. 10 rushed 33 times for 141 yards and a touchdown while throwing for two scores in the first half as the Hawks defeated the Chiefs for the first time since 2010 by a score of 20-7.
“I was real excited, being my first start. The offensive line played their butts off,” Elrod said on the field after the victory. “I had holes all night to run through.”
Monacan would score first, partly as a gift from the Hawks. After a defensive penalty gave the Chiefs a free first down, Keyshawn Jefferson broke free for a 77-yard touchdown run to give Monacan the early 7-0 lead.
Elrod would finish the Hawks’ first scoring drive with his arm, finding Beau Sahnow on a 17-yard strike to make it 7-6 in the final minute of the first period. Hanover’s defense began a three-quarter journey of shutting down the Chiefs, a perennial Region 4B team that was hit hard by graduation. Monacan struggled to sustain drives the rest of the game.
Nearing the half, Elrod again struck in the passing game, launching an 18-yard touchdown pass to James Poole, who leapt high to grab the ball over the Chief defender. Elrod ran successfully for a two-point conversion with 1:16 remaining for a 14-7 lead.
The Hawks, who won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, turned that decision into a deft move, as they methodically drove down the field, taking nearly 10 minutes off the clock. Disappointingly, the drive would end without scoring. But the drive shortened the half considerably, making it even more difficult for Monacan to launch a comeback.
The final Hanover score came with 2:14 left on a 1-yard Elrod run for the winning margin.
Defensively, the most impressive part of the Hawks’ performance was an ensemble effort.
“We’ve got multiple kids where it’s only their first or second year playing, and they’re playing their heart out, man,” said linebacker Jackson Currie. “The guys love buying into the program. They’re gritty, and they love to play.”
This Friday, Hanover travels just west of Colonial Heights to face Matoaca, one of four new Richmond-area schools in Region 4B. The Warriors have already registered impressive wins over Glen Allen and Clover Hill to stake their claim as a playoff contender in an already crowded field.
The Hawks, too, want to grab one of eight postseason berths in the 17-team region, having missed the postseason each of the past four years. A power offense and an opportunistic defense were hallmarks of the Rogers era a decade ago, and Hanover hopes those attributes are back to stay.
Rob Witham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.