Harlan needed to do something out of the ordinary to keep its season alive, so that’s what Daniel Johnson did.
The senior quarterback did it more than once, actually.
Johnson called an audible for the game-winning touchdown and completed a 42-yard Hail Mary for a touchdown as the Falcons upset Hubbard 18-16 Thursday in a Public League playoff opener at Gately Stadium.
Harlan (4-5) needed to win to extend its season after losing three of its previous four games and finishing fourth in the Land of Lincoln.
“We [weren’t] holding our head down,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of confidence coming into the game.”
Credit some of that to Harlan’s big offensive line.
“I love my line, I love them to death,” said Johnson, who ran 10 times for 32 yards and was 4-for-16 passing for 92 yards and two scores.
The Falcons also had 94 yards on 15 carries from Arvid Peck, including 75 on 11 attempts after halftime.
“When it was time to pound the ball, we [were] able to pound the ball,” Harlan coach Keith Brookshire said. “Some things opened up in the fourth quarter. ... Our kids just woke up and started playing.”
Down 16-6 after three quarters, the Falcons pulled within 16-12 on Johnson’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Malik Sanders with 9:56 left.
After taking over on downs at its own 32, the Falcons marched in for the decisive score. Johnson’s seven-yard run with 4:22 remaining gave the Falcons the lead for good.
“The play before, I saw something and let my coaches know,” Johnson said.
“He said, ‘That end is biting, let’s run the play where I read him and if he bites, I’m keeping it,’ ’’ Brookshire said. “That was a big call on him. I’m not taking any credit.”
The Falcons’ other big play was Johnson’s long touchdown pass to junior Kemo Lee on the last play of the first half.
Hubbard (6-3), which had a six-game winning streak snapped, scored on Jaquelle Smith’s 11-yard pass to Darion Henderson (12 carries, 65 yards; six catches, 76 yards) and Charles Allen’s three-yard run.
The Greyhounds, who already were without their starting quarterback and three starting linemen because of injuries, lost tailback Joshua Land (ankle) late in the first quarter.
“When Josh Land got hurt, they just weren’t the same,” said Hubbard coach Elton Harris, whose team is still heading to the IHSA playoffs. “They’ve been playing better than that all year.”