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TAMPA — After watching Karel Hamilton return a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown Thursday night, the plan was to squib the next kick to make sure he didn’t return another one 96 yards.
And sure enough, he didn’t.
He only returned the next one 80 yards for a score.
Every time Leto took a step toward snapping its 17-game on-the-field losing streak, it was a bunch of quicker steps by Hamilton that turned the Falcons away in a 37-32 Strawberry Crest triumph.
The Chargers (1-6) picked up their first win of the season, dropping Leto to 0-8.
It was a sloppy, fumble- and penalty-filled affair, just about what you’d expect from two winless teams.
But there were also a bunch of big plays, starting with the first one — Francisco Salcedo’s 96-yard kickoff return to open the game for Leto.
The Falcons’ first lead of the season, however, lasted only as long as it took the Chargers to figure out Leto had no one to cover Hamilton.
Trailing 6-3 to start the second quarter, Hamilton caught three passes for 76 yards on one drive, the last one an 11-yard score from Trey VanDeGrift to make it 9-6.
On Strawberry Crest’s next series, Hamilton turned a quick slant into a 62-yard gain to set up another and make it 16-9 at halftime.
But Leto tried every trick in the book. The Falcons opened the second half with an onside kick, leading to Alex Smith’s 23-yard touchdown, and recovered a fumble after consecutive sacks to set up a short scoring run by Andre Simpson giving Leto a 22-16 lead.
But Hamilton returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards — and after a Leto field goal and touchdown (set up by another onside kick) gave the lead back to the Falcons — he returned the next kickoff 80 yards.
One defensive hold later, freshman quarterback Austin Carswell stepped in for the injured VanDeGrift and capped a drive with the winning touchdown on a 5-yard run with 11:25 remaining.