MINERAL WELLS, Texas — After clawing their way to the Class 2A Division I UIL state championship game last year, the Hawley Bearcats have been relentless in their pursuit of a return trip to the state title game throughout the 2022 Texas high school football playoffs.
On Thursday night at Ram Stadium in a tense battle of unbeaten teams, the Bearcats completed the final leg of their long journey back to AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Led by senior running back Austin Cumpton — the Bearcats' workhorse back who finished with 175 yards and four rushing touchdowns on 31 carries — Hawley knocked off previously undefeated Crawford, sealing a 34-20 win over the Pirates to clinch its second straight UIL state championship appearance.
Hawley (15-0) advances to face the Refugio Bobcats (14-1) in the 2A DI Texas high school football state championship game, one year after the Bearcats fell to Shiner 47-12. Hawley has now won 30 of its last 31 games.
“I’m just super excited,” Hawley head coach Mitch Ables said after the game. “My hats off to Crawford. They played well and it was a very physical game. We’re going to have to get over some bumps and bruises. But I'm extremely proud of our kids. They fought tooth and nail tonight and came out on top.”
Crawford started the game with a six-and-a-half minute, 66-yard drive capped off with a 13-yard QB keeper by Luke Torbert. The Bearcats responded with a 75-yard drive of their own with Cumpton finishing off the drive from 8-yards out. A successful two-point conversion try gave Hawley an 8-7 lead just before the end of the first quarter.
The first play of the second quarter was a punt from the Pirates.
After a long pass downfield, quarterback Rodey Hooper connected with Will Scott for an 11-yard touchdown on the following play. The extra point was blocked by the Bearcats, though, leaving the score at 14-7 in favor of Crawford.
Hooper led a potent air attack for Hawley, completing 15 of 18 pass attempts for 228 yards and a touchdown.
Crawford did not take long to respond, needing just five plays and less than 3 minutes for Cash Bolgiano to take a hand off 38 yards to pay dirt, but the extra point sailed wide to the left and the Bearcats retained a 14-13 lead.
A good kickoff return set up Hawley in excellent field position.
The Bearcats drove down to the Pirates' 2-yard line before Cumpton finished off the drive again for Hawley. Another two-point conversion brought the halftime score to 22-13.
The Bearcats came up with a score late in the third quarter on a 94-yard drive, when Cumpton scored his third touchdown of the game from 3-yards out. Yet again, the Pirates responded when Breck Chambers scored from within 5-yards, closing the gap to 28-20 as the third quarter came to a close.
Crawford put up a valiant defensive effort during the fourth quarter, but Cumpton put a bow on his dominant performance and the Hawley win with his fourth touchdown of the game, bringing the final score to 34-20 and propelling the Bearcats to the Class 2A Division I UIL Football State Championship game.
“It’s just experience,” Ables explained the difference from 2021. “Going back to a place where we’re no stranger to now, and hopefully we can just put a good plan together and play hard.”
The loss ends Crawford's bid for a perfect season and snaps a 14-game winning streak for the Pirates, who reached the state semifinals for the second time in the last three years.
Crawford fell to Post 28-14 during their last 2A DI state semifinals appearance during the 2020 postseason.
The Bearcats, meanwhile, kept their bid for a perfect 16-0 season alive with their 15th straight win and punched their ticket to the Class 2A Division I Texas high school football state championship game for the second consecutive season.
Hawley (15-0) will face the Refugio Bobcats (14-1) in the 2A DI UIL Football State Championship game at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Check out SBLive's exclusive photo gallery from the game:
PHOTO GALLERY — HAWLEY 34, CRAWFORD 20
All photos by Brian McLean