For the Lee-Davis Confederates, the playoffs began three weeks early. At 3-4, their first assignment was winning at Hanover for the first time in eight years, to have any hope of keeping postseason hopes alive in Class 5A South.
Thanks to an offensive outburst that stunned the hometown Hawks fans, Lee-Davis built a lead, then held on for dear life in the final minutes for a 40-35 victory that left both teams at 4-4, and neither guaranteed a playoff berth.
Hanover began 4-3, winners of two straight, ready to surge forward to play for a first round home playoff game in Class 4A South. They left the field shaken, but not broken, realizing their early November road to the playoffs would not be easy.
Lee-Davis struck first on a 71-yard drive, capped by a 39-yard rumble by Donald Kidd right up the middle for a 7-0 lead. The Hawks responded with
a drive of their own, moving to the Lee-Davis 3. With 3:50 left in the opening quarter, a mishandled handoff attempt found the ball sailing into the end zone, where Nathan Evans pounced on it for the first Hawks turnover of the night.
It wouldn’t be the last.
The Confederates drove 80 yards, capping the drive early second quarter as Austin Rice hit the end zone from a yard out for a 14-0 lead. The Hawks didn’t panic, driving in response to the Lee-Davis 29. There, quarterback Korbin Bordonie sent a rocket high to the left side, finding sophomore Jalen Elliott stride for stride. Elliott jumped high, made the catch, and zoomed into the end zone to cut the Confederate lead to 14-7.
The second Hawks turnover would cost them seven points. A Bordonie pass was intercepted by Sam Newsome at midfield, caused by Bordonie feeling heat in pass rush by Kidd from behind, and from Kyle Farr, breaking his coverage to come after him as he rolled left. From there, Blake Stattelman got into the act, ending another Lee-Davis drive by cutting to the right, then back up the middle, knifing 19 yards to paydirt. The Confederates led 20-7 with 2:36 left in the half, the point after missed by Stephen Hall.
In a sign of things to come in the final minutes of the game, Hanover sped quickly downfield before halftime to score again, as Elliott took his turn at quarterback, finding Josh Harris for a 17-yard touchdown for a 20-14 halftime score.
In some ways, the second half mirrored the first. Donald Kidd scored the first touchdown of the stanza, from 24 yards, to up the Confederates’ lead to 27-14. Just before the end of the third quarter, sophomore Miles Johnson ran 29 yards from a direct snap that almost got away from him for six. Lee-Davis led 33-14 with 12 minutes to play.
Elliott’s quarterback play sent Hanover to the red zone, scoring on his second TD pass to Harris, this time from 8 yards. But seven minutes later, when Stattelman scored his second touchdown of the night on a most unusual play, Lee-Davis took a 40-21 lead with just 3:46 to go.
Lee-Davis advanced to the Hanover 10, ran two plays, and lost 16 yards. After a referee delay, the Confederates set up for third and goal from the 26. Stattelman took the misdirection handoff from fellow tailback Johnson, racing around right side to the front pylon of the end zone.
“[Stattelman] is just a good athlete and we thought a misdirection play would be suitable for third and 26,” Lee-Davis head coach Zac Hayden said. “Usually we want to run that into the field, but I thought let’s go and run it to the boundary.”
Many Hanover fans headed for the exits then. They would miss the most exciting part of the game.
In two minutes of game time, Hanover cut a 19-point lead to five. Elliott shined on special teams, returning the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to the Lee-Davis 11. Elliott scored a play later. It took just 23 seconds.
An onside kick failed, but Lee-Davis gifted Hanover with a fumble, recovered by the Hawks at the 35 at 2:23 left. Just seconds later, Bordonie found Harris downfield for a 34-yard touchdown. With 1:46 to go, it was 40-35.
TJ Allen’s third and final onside kick attempt for Hanover was a beauty, bouncing high over the first line of Lee-Davis’ return team. They turned and dived for the ball. So did Brennan Gary of Hanover on the far sideline. Gary recovered, but was barely out of bounds. Lee-Davis retained possession, ran out the clock, and lived to fight another day for the playoffs.
“I’m thinking at the end of the game, ‘get the onside kick, get the onside kick,’” Hayden recalled. “It was a great high school football game, two teams that played their hearts out.”
Coupled with Mills Godwin’s 41-10 loss to Hermitage, Lee-Davis leapfrogged over the Eagles in VHSL rider points to take the eighth and final playoff spot in Class 5A South “Central Zone” with two games to play – 5A South was one of two regions to vote to split their 16-team postseason tournaments into two eight-team regional brackets. But Godwin is only .375 behind the Confederates. There is no room for error. Lee-Davis must win its final two games, both at home, to give them their best chance at the postseason. The Confederates face 2-6 Armstrong this Friday, then battle rival Atlee Nov. 8.
Hanover, suddenly, finds its homestretch to the playoffs a slippery slope. The loss dropped the Hawks from 10th to 12th in the Class 4A South playoff race where the top 16 advance regardless of geography. Senior Night Friday is a tall challenge, as 7-1 Varina comes to Chamberlayne Road. Hanover is 1-9 all-time against the Blue Devils. Hawks fans will be watching the scoreboard to see how teams such as Glen Allen (at Henrico), Nansemond River, Smithfield and even Caroline do, fearing their Nov. 8 finale at Glen Allen could wind up being a 4A South elimination game.
In East Richmond, Atlee rolled to its fifth straight win, 42-12 over Armstrong. Loumond Dandridge rushed for 259 yards and the first two Raider touchdowns. All six Atlee scores were on the ground, including three 1-yard runs from Lamont Stubbs.
Now 7-1, Atlee is in a dead heat for the third seed in Class 5A South Central Zone against their opponent this Friday, 7-1 Highland Springs, who haven’t lost since before Labor Day. The winner on Senior Night in front of the Rage Cage will take a giant step forward in securing a home playoff game, and a bracket position opposite the undefeated, defending state champion L.C. Bird, while the loser could lose a home game in the first round altogether, thanks to surging Hermitage.
(NOTE: Highland Springs at Atlee is the WHAN Radio Game of the Week, and can be heard Friday at 6:30 p.m. on 102.9 FM, 1430 AM, or online.)