It’s safe to say multiple Google searches for “inadvertent whistle” were made across Hanover County this past weekend.
A little known rule was used at a critical juncture, the call going against the homestanding Hanover Hawks. It may have cost them six points, but it did not cost them their second straight loss, this time by a 32-26 score to Highland Springs. But it will be remembered.
The Springers (3-1) took no time unleashing its offensive attack. On the second play from scrimmage, tailback Alex Wilson took a handoff, went up the middle, and raced 47 yards for a 6-0 lead. In a foreshadowing for the rest of the night for both teams, the Highland Springs extra point was wiped off the board due to a penalty, and Ryan Buzzard’s subsequent second PAT attempt from 25 yards was no good.
The Hawks responded with a long drive, taking six minutes as freshman tailback Clayton Cheatham scored the first of two touchdowns from five yards out to take a 7-6 lead. The subsequent Springers drive stalled at the Hanover 42, and the Hawks took over at the 41 when the Hanover special teams shut down a Highland Springs fake punt attempt.
Not pinning Hanover deep in their own territory, the Springers gave the Hawks good field position, and they took full advantage, driving 59 yards for another score, Cheatham from a yard out, and suddenly it was 13-6, as Brady Anthony-Brumfield missed the point after.
The Springers, though, quickly reminded everyone how lightning fast they can find the end zone, as senior quarterback DJ Johnson zipped a pass across the middle to Felton Davis running a slant. Davis got the inside track and raced for a 70-yard touchdown. Buzzard’s extra point tied it at 13-13 to end the first quarter.
Highland Springs would strike first in the second, too, when Johnson ran a keeper to the corner of the end zone from 18 yards out for a 20-13 Springer lead.
With 5:26 to go before halftime, Johnson stepped back to throw, but his pass was picked off by linebacker Brennan Gary, reading the play perfectly to step in front of the intended receiver. It was Johnson who kept Gary out of the end zone, tackling him near the 10-yard line. It was Gary’s return to action after being out two weeks with a separated shoulder.
Two plays later, on third and goal, Hanover signal caller Korbin Bordonie threw a swing pass left side to Jalen Elliott, who immediately made a diagonal beeline towards the goal line in the middle of the field. Two Springers descended on him there and we waited for the officials’ call. Two of them signaled touchdown. For a moment, it was 20-19.
Both teams sent their special teams unit in for the PAT, but before it could happen, the officials asked for time and began a conference in the end zone. The players, coaches and fans waited, and waited. Finally, when the head referee consulted the Hawks sideline, they were none too happy.
The touchdown was taken off the board due to what the officials deemed an “inadvertent whistle” that they said took place when Elliott was at the 1-yard line. By rule, when an inadvertent whistle is blown, the play is deemed dead at the time of the whistle. Somehow, they determined Elliott was under a yard from paydirt when the whistle blew.
Hanover opted to go for it on fourth and inches with Cheatham up the middle and the Springer defense stiffened, and got the ball back to Johnson and company on downs. It would take nearly another quarter before Hanover would score again.
At 7:49 left in the third, Bordonie raced 33 yards for a touchdown, but, again, Anthony-Brumfield missed the point after, leaving Hanover down one at 20-19. As the third quarter came to its conclusion, Johnson and Highland Springs struck back on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Tyquan Rowley who was all alone down the middle of the field. With 12 minutes left, it was 26-19, as a low snap doomed yet another Buzzard extra point attempt.
The Hawks bounced back quickly as second half tailback Rayvon Burden scored from 5 yards out to tie the game at 26-26 with 10 minutes left. The teams slugged it out as the quarter continued. Finally, it would be the Springers who would make the final moves.
Wilson made his touchdowns bookends for the evening, making the end zone on a 18-yard run with 2:02 left for a 32-26 lead. The extra point was blocked.
The Hawks had one final chance, but Springers linebacker KC Hinton sacked Bordonie for a 9-yard loss, damaging the Hawks’ drive which had made the Springers’ 43. Bordonie’s fourth down pass fell to the ground due to miscommunication between the quarterback and wideout Anthony Zona, and the Hawks lost their first home regular season game since a 42-3 loss to Varina in week nine of the 2011 season.
“This game was unique,” said Highland Springs head coach Loren Johnson, who noted many obstacles his team had to overcome during the week just to make it to game night. And when problems arise, the Springers have a solution.
“We have what we call a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting,” Johnson said. “We air our discomforts, our dislikes, the things that are bothering us, and ways we can get better. And ‘we’ means the players and coaches. We are very candid and open. We adults forget sometimes that these players are young men that we are trying to teach to be men.”
Friday night’s lesson for the Springers was to persevere and stay the course in order to leave a tough venue like Hanover with a win. For Hanover, the lesson was little things mean a lot. Extra points, second half penalties, miscommunication between quarterback and receiver at the worst possible time. These are the mistakes the Hawks will look to rectify during “Atlee Week.”
The Hawks, at 2-2, go to Atlee to renew what has become perhaps the hottest rivalry to be found in high school football in all the Central Region. After watching Highland Springs come in and earn a big road win, the Hawks would love nothing more than to turn around and do this same thing to Atlee.
If you go, expect a huge crowd. Come early for a good parking place, and don’t be surprised if you wait a while to leave the facility after the game. If you haven’t been to a Hanover/Atlee game in recent years, you’re missing more than a football game, you’re missing an experience.
Friday’s Hawks/Raiders showdown will be heard on WHAN Radio (102.9 FM and 1430 AM) beginning at 6:30 p.m., and online at HanoverCountySports.net.