Hylton entered Monday's football game at Osbourn Park with an all-time 14-0 record against the host school but a recent history of falling behind.
True to form, the No. 9 Bulldogs survived a first quarter that Coach Lou Sorrentino called a "real mental challenge" to emerge with a 38-21 victory over the team they have rallied to defeat the past two seasons in the Northwestern Region Division 6 title game.
Senior quarterback Tristen Simmons ran for two touchdowns and threw for one as Hylton ran off 28 unanswered points to improve to 2-0.
But it would have been hard to distinguish a Bulldog from an underdog in the opening period, when Hylton turned the ball over twice and allowed Osbourn Park (0-2) to score seemingly at will to take a 21-10 lead.
The game started well for the visitors, who scored on their first play from a scrimmage -- a 10-yard run by junior running back Courtney Anderson -- after they blocked a punt.
But except for a 42-yard field goal by Hylton senior Matt Martinez, the rest of the quarter belonged to the Yellow Jackets, who scored on three consecutive possessions, all on big plays. Senior quarterback Addison Carr connected on 60- and 26-yard scoring passes with junior wide receiver Anthony Bratton, sandwiching a 56-yard run by junior running back Devin Thompson.
"It's pretty easy to push the panic button when you are down by 11 points and they have all the momentum with a couple big plays, and we turn the ball over a couple of times," Sorrentino said. "We were at the point where we were thinking we would make some big changes, but I'm proud of the kids, and I have to give my defensive coaches credit. We stayed the course."
The Bulldogs, who had no defensive starters return from last year's state semifinal team, turned it around in the second quarter, cashing in on a couple of Osbourn Park turnovers, including an interception by senior linebacker Ryan McAlister. Simmons capped one drive with a one-yard touchdown run, and later tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Rubin Scott.
"I thought we'd get on pretty good after we had that first touchdown, but they came to play," Simmons said of the rough first quarter. "A few of our new players were down on themselves, but I had to let them know that it's a long game and it wasn't over."