Playing to keep its playoff hopes alive, the Bartlett football team's defense came up big against visiting Larkin in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover matchup.
The Hawks took the lead for good at the end of the third quarter then forced 4 of the Royals' 5 turnovers in the fourth in a 20-7 victory on Friday night at Millennium Field.
Trailing 7-6 with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter, Hurshel Ross III ran for 42 of his 59 yards during a 13-play Bartlett (3-4) scoring drive that ended at the buzzer.
Bartlett quarterback Jordan Flint (8-for-9, 65 yards) capped that drive with a 13-yard TD pass to Clint Zierke, who leapt in the back of the end zone for the grab. Flint hit Brandon Gates on a 2-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.
"We all played as a group in that second half," Zierke said. "We all wanted this win, and we wanted to keep our playoff chances going."
On the opening possession of the fourth quarter, Damion Clemons (17 carries, 56 yards) ran for 24 yards on two plays and Cameron Tomlin broke a 22-yard run for the Royals (3-4).
However, Tomlin lost the ball on his run which Michael Coleantonio recovered for the Hawks on the first of 4 straight Larkin possessions that ended with a fumble. The Hawks turned that into points as Titus Ayomidele ran for 60 yards on the 72-yard drive including a 21-yard TD run for the final score.
"Larkin is a tough team," said Hawks coach Tom Meaney. "They were 3-3 coming in and they have some skill players, but luckily for us they dropped some big passes and gave us some fumbles."
The Hawks had 218 rushing yards led by Matthew Callahan's 81, including a 6-yard TD run for a 6-0 Bartlett lead 6 seconds into the second quarter.
Larkin was able to move the ball throughout the first half with 10 first downs and no 3-and-outs. After Bartlett's score, the Royals drove to the Hawks' 3-yard line before attempting a field goal which was blocked by Jeff Mitchell.
The Royals got on the board on their following drive when QB Kemmerin Blalark (12-for-22, 132 yards) threw a 5-yard TD pass to Dante Bonds.
"We need to reload and concentrate," said Larkin coach Mike Scianna. "We need the seniors, the next two St. Charles (East and North) games, to come out and play hard. We know it will be tough because of playoff points, but we have a goal to be playoff eligible."
Bartlett needs wins over South Elgin and Neuqua Valley in the final two weeks for playoff eligibility.