It was pretty much a re-run of last year’s game with the same ending.
Lewiston’s Andres Nunez scored two touchdowns, including a 96-yard return on the opening kickoff, to lift the visiting Bengals past the Lakeland Hawks 14-5 in the season football opener for both teams Friday.
Both teams sputtered on offense at times and committed costly turnovers in the red zone. Lakeland stopped the Bengals on fourth-and-1 at the 2 only to fumble the ball away two plays later. Nunez, a senior receiver and defensive back, pounced on the ball in the end zone to bump Lewiston’s lead to 14-0 near the end of the first quarter.
“It was really kind of a similar story to last year when we played in Lewiston,” said Hawks coach Tim Kiefer, referring to the Bengals’ 20-7 victory. “We did the same thing, just offensive woes right at the beginning.”
Nunez impacted the game in several ways. The 6-foot, 200-pounder showed off his speed when he took the kickoff to the sideline and outran Lakeland’s coverage. He also made four catches for 102 yards and intercepted a pass.
“He’s a pretty good player,” Lewiston coach Shawn Nilsson said. “He’s put on about 20 pounds since last year and he runs a 4.5 (40-yard time).”
The 5A Bengals looked like they might blow out the 4A Hawks, but Lakeland’s defense wouldn’t allow it. Lewiston ran for just 77 yards. Quarterback Drew Melton had 173 yards passing, just 70 in the second half.
“Our defense played outstanding,” Kiefer said.
But Lakeland couldn’t take advantage, managing just 84 yards in the first half.
The Hawks fumbled on their first play of the second half, but the Bengals returned the favor by fumbling at the Hawks’ 5-yard line. Lakeland followed with its best drive of the game.
Lakeland moved inside the Bengals’ 5-yard line but two penalties pushed the ball back to the 21. The Hawks settled for Cade Coffey’s 40-yard field goal to trim Lewiston’s lead to 14-3 late in the third quarter.
The Bengals drove to the Lakeland 1-yard line but another costly fumble gave the Hawks’ possession. Lakeland fumbled the ball away near the Bengals’ goal line.
“We made a couple of big plays that were key,” Nilsson said. “It was the same thing when we played them last year. We struggled in the red zone, turned it over and shot ourselves in the foot.”