HOCKINSON — A sickening sense of déjà vu fell over the stunned Hockinson sideline.
For the second straight week, a late interception did in the Hawks. What made it worse Friday night was that this time, they’d let a lead slip through their grasp.
Deon Schlesser’s 11-yard interception return for a score with 2:30 to play gave Aberdeen the lead on Senior Night at Nautilus Stadium, and his interception at the Hawks 11 with 25 seconds left sealed the Bobcats’ 22-17 2A Greater St. Helens League victory.
“We had them on the ropes,” said Hockinson coach Brian Schott. “This is a tough one to take.”
The Hawks (4-4, 1-3) still have playoff aspirations, but they no longer control their fate there as well after losing their third straight game.
They’ll need to win their finale next Friday at Washougal (5-3, 2-2), and assuming Aberdeen (3-5, 1-3) takes care of winless Ridgefield in its finale, the Hawks, Bobcats and Panthers would meet a week from Monday in Kalama to decide the 2A GSHL’s No. 3 seed.
“It’s gut-check time,” Schott said. “We talk a lot about character. This will be one of those games where we’ll see how we come out next week.”
Hockinson took a 17-14 lead on a 30-yard field goal by Quentin Bodenhamer with 5:49 to play.
The Bobcats looked poised to take their first lead on the ensuing possession, driving from their own 43 to the Hawks 5. But on fourth-and-4, Jared Oja pushed quarterback Joel Dublanko out of bounds at the 3, giving Hockinson the ball back with 2:55 remaining.
Two running plays forced Aberdeen to burn its remaining timeouts, and on third-and-8, Schott decided to go for the first down.
“We complete the pass there, the game is over,” he said.
Instead, Schlesser stepped in front of the intended receiver in the left flat, gathered himself and sprinted untouched into the end zone.
Hockinson had one last chance, and drove from its 30 to the Aberdeen 23. But on first down, Schlesser again dropped into coverage from his linebacker spot and reached up to gather in Jess Krahn’s 39th pass of the night.
“Their backers did a good job dropping back all game, and we didn’t adjust well,” Schott said. “That last interception, he dropped on a post corner and made a heck of a play.”
Hockinson led 14-0 midway through the second quarter, and the defense forced three turnovers — including a pair of Austen Johnson interceptions — during that span.
But the Hawks also let a couple of drives into Aberdeen territory stall on fourth-down misfires, and after Oja’s interception gave them the ball at the Bobcats 15 with 7:33 to play, they went three-and-out and had to settle for Bodenhamer’s field goal.
“We just can’t finish drives,” Schott said. “That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year. We move the ball, but we can’t make the plays when we need to.”
Krahn finished 22-of-39 for 236 yards. Cameron Loos had five catches for a game-high 84 yards. Defensively, linebacker Louden Seekins had a game-high 13 tackles, and Oja added eight tackles and a fumble recovery.
ABERDEEN 22, HOCKINSON 17
Aberdeen 0 8 0 14– 22
Hockinson 7 7 0 3–17
H — Austen Johnson 1 run (Quentin Bodenhamer kick)
H — Nick Barclay 18 pass from Jess Krahn (Bodenhamer kick)
A — Drew Stocker 4 run (Joel Dublanko run)
A — Dublanko 1 run (kick failed)
H — Bodenhamer 30 FG
A — Deon Schlesser 11 interception return (Dublanko run)
RUSHING — Aberdeen, Austin Foch 20-94, Dublanko 12-40, Stocker 8-19, Austin Kerrigan 2-5, Veek Cheema 2-8, team 2-(minus 7). Hockinson, Krahn 11-19, A.Johnson 2-6, Barclay 3-(minus 3), Cameron Loos 1-4, Devan Riggs 1-3, Justin Held 1-(minus 3).
PASSING — Aberdeen, Dublanko 5-9-3-49, Cheema 2-2-0-12. Hockinson, Krahn 22-39-2-236.
RECEIVING — Aberdeen, Schlesser 3-21, Lorenzo Ontiveros 1-13, Floch 1-20, Carter Harris 1-4, Stocker 1-3. Hockinson, Loos 5-84, Taylor Guzman 5-45, Barclay 4-44, Justin Anderson 3-28, A.Johnson 2-15, Riggs 2-11, Kedrick Johnson 1-9.