PALMDALE — The Knight football team found itself in a difficult position Friday night, but one the Hawks have successfully overcome already this season.
Knight trailed by three touchdowns in the first half against Antelope Valley.
But the Hawks had two come-from-behind wins earlier this season and rallied again on Friday, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter.
Knight tied the game early in the second half and took its first lead midway through the third quarter, hanging on for a 42-33 Golden League victory at Jim Bauer Stadium at Knight High School.
Knight, enjoying one of its best seasons, improved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league with its seventh consecutive victory, and undefeated in league play, tied for first with Highland.
Knight plays at Highland next Friday in a battle for first place.
“We’ve been down so many times this year,” Knight senior Demetrius Freeman said. “We just said ‘Let’s go. Let’s get it done.’
“AV is a very good team. Last year they took the Golden League. We had a good game plan and we were able to come out on top.”
Freeman scored three touchdowns in the second half, two rushing and one passing.
The Hawks tied the game at 21-21 on a 45-yard touchdown run by senior Christian Roland-Wallace early in the third quarter.
Antelope Valley led 21-0 midway through the second quarter and had a 21-14 lead at halftime, but fumbled and turned the ball over on the opening possession of the second half. Knight senior Jovan Navarro recovered the fumble for the Hawks at midfield.
But the Antelopes (6-2, 3-2) answered with a 55-yard touchdown run by junior Jermaine Marshall on the first play of the ensuing possession, giving AV a 27-21 lead with the PAT going wide right.
Knight was able to retake the lead of its next possession, a 9-play, 52-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard TD run by Freeman, giving Knight a 28-27 lead it would not relinquish.
“Just incredible. Absolutely incredible,” Knight coach Chance Tapia said. “It’s a very good football team over there. They have great athletes. We knew there would be a dogfight. Our kids play hard until the final whistle.
“I’m very proud of them. We’re going to enjoy this one, but now we face the Bulldogs.”
AV drove to the Knight 40-yard line on the following drive, but on fourth-and 20, the Antelopes fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Knight senior Daniel Morales.
Freeman scored on a 27-yard run following the turnover, on the fifth play of a 53-yard drive, giving the Hawks a 35-27 lead.
The Antelopes were far from finished and answered on the ensuing possession.
AV junior wide receiver Derrell Lloyd caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from senior Caden Hinton on fourth-and-goal.
A run on the 2-point conversion was stuffed by the Knight defense, preserving a 35-33 Knight lead.
Knight again immediately answered on the ensuing drive.
Knight senior Nelson Douglas caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Freeman to cap a 6-play, 65-yard drive, giving the Hawks a 42-33 lead in front of its enthusiastic home crowd.
The Antelopes argued the call in the endzone, drawing three unsportsmanlike penalties, one of which led to the ejection of an AV player.
Freeman threw for 181 yards on 13-of-23 passing, overcoming throwing an interception on his second pass of the game, picked off by AV junior Bryce Mack.
Knight senior Nelson Douglas caught four passes for 54 yards with two touchdowns and Roland-Wallace caught four passes for 99 yards.
AV fumbled and turned the ball over, its fourth turnover on a fumble of the game, in the Antelopes’ final drive. Douglas recovered the fumble for the Hawks.
Antelope Valley was also hurt by 20 penalties for 185 yards.
Knight killed the final eight minutes and 10 seconds of the game with its final possession, ending in three knees to end the game by Freeman.
“Playoffs,” Freeman said. “We put in so much hard work and dedication in the offseason.
“It’s our senior year. We’re taking it game by game.”
Knight senior Jalen Williams led the Hawks with 86 yards rushing on 17 carries.
“We were down against Paloma Valley. We were down against Quartz Hill,” Tapia said. “That experience, mixed with all of our seniors, who have all played varsity football for three years, they know how to finish.
“We challenged them this week to step their game up, if they want to make the playoffs.”
Antelope Valley junior Elliott Thurman led the Antelopes with 213 yards on 24 carries and junior Jermaine Marshall had 147 yards on 21 carries with touchdowns of 6 and 55 yards.
Hinton threw two touchdown passes, both to Lloyd, who caught two passes for 25 yards.
The Antelopes scored on their first possession of the game.
Marshall scored on a 6-yard run on the Antelopes’ second drive and Lloyd caught a 20-yard touchdown from Hinton on their third possession to take a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The momentum shifted when the Hawks challenged a first-down ruling in the second quarter.
The officials initially gave AV a first down on first-and-1 at midfield, but Knight took a timeout and asked for a measurement on the spot, which was overturned, giving Knight the ball at midfield.
Freeman scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 54-yard drive, giving Knight its first score with 2:37 remaining in the first quarter.
Knight junior Isaac Torres recovered a fumble on the ensuing onside kickoff and the Hawks capitalized.
Douglas caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Freeman with 36 seconds remaining in the first half, giving Knight momentum in the second half, despite trailing.
Antelope Valley hosts Littlerock next week.