By ROB WITHAM
H-P Sports Correspondent
There are no more unbeatens in Hanover County.
As Lee-Davis prepares to travel to Hanover Friday night, while, at the same time, Patrick Henry hits the buses for a trip to Atlee, both teams look back on their last endeavor back on Friday night, one wondering what went wrong, the other wondering what might have been.
Lee-Davis began Capital District play 3-0, and confident that they had, in their hands, a chance at their first win over Highland Springs since the 2010 season. But it became all too clear Friday in Mechanicsville that the team ready to make a statement wasn’t Lee-Davis, but the two-time defending state champion Springers.
Using all three facets of the game to find points, Highland Springs completely dominated Lee-Davis, taking a 48-0 victory to improve to 4-1, while sending the Confederates to a 3-1 mark. There was little to cheer about for Lee-Davis fans, as Highland Springs scored on their opening possession and never took the foot off the gas pedal.
It began with Devonte Waller hooking up with former Lee-Davis player Billy Kemp on a 50-yard touchdown strike up the middle for a 7-0 lead. Kemp spoke moments later on defense, intercepting a Zach Lass pass and returning it 67 yards to the Lee-Davis 19, setting up a three-yard touchdown run for DreShaun Taylor for a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
It would be the first of four Highland Springs touchdowns in the second stanza, highlighted by a 90-yard punt return for a score from Tremayne Talbert, who also intercepted a pass and now has six picks for the Springers over their first five games. Before the half ended, Waller added two more touchdown passes, a six-yarder to Robert Jones III and, in the final minute, a 24-yard shovel pass to Shyrie McKeiver. Lee-Davis went to the locker room down 34-0 and with almost no offensive production.
Dim hopes for the second half faded to black when Lee-Davis opened the third quarter with a drive that lasted just over ten minutes that stalled just outside the red zone, Lass begin sacked on a fourth down play. On Highland Springs’ first offensive play, McKeiver busted loose for a 67-yard run, and fans began to head for the exits.
The Springer defense keyed on Josh Rice, who rushed for 104 yards but left in the second half with a foot/ankle injury and did not return. Rice was never able to get the big play that has been a hallmark of his play and the Lee-Davis offense, this season. Lass threw three interceptions, the last being returned 72 yards by Antwane Wells for the final touchdown of the night midway through the fourth quarter.
“Anytime you win, you’re happy. Then you go back, look at it, have something to build on,” noted Highland Springs head coach Loren Johnson. “We’ll sit down, take a deep breath, we’ll move forward and get ready for Henrico.”
Henrico is the team that handed Patrick Henry their first loss of 2017 in heartbreaking fashion Friday, taking a 35-34 overtime victory over the Patriots. The Warriors built a 13-0 lead in the second quarter, but quarterback Hunter Hart, in his first game of 2017 after missing the Patriots’ first three games due to illness, scored on a one-yard run before halftime to cut the deficit to 13-7.
That second quarter was a preview of what would become a heavyweight fight in the second half, the Patriots punching first when Hart found Devyn Coles for a 74-yard touchdown completion. A two-point conversion try failed, leaving the game tied at 13-13. Tyrelle Ellison, who would score two touchdowns via pass and two more on the ground for Henrico, gave the Warriors the lead again on a 13-yard scamper, but Hart answered early in the fourth quarter with a two-yard touchdown run of his own, and the game again was tied at 20-20.
Ellison struck again with 4:37 to play, ending a Henrico drive on a three-yard touchdown run, then catching a Lawrence Chambers pass for a two-point conversion, putting the pressure on the Patriots, down eight and time running out. Patrick Henry worked down the field, advancing to the Henrico 13 with a minute remaining. Sophomore quarterback Alex Sikkar finished the drive on a nine-yard touchdown run with just 19 seconds left. Needing two points, the Patriots looked to Hart, who converted to tie the game, sending it to overtime.
Patrick Henry got the ball first at the Henrico 10 with four plays. Hart wasted no time, scoring from ten yards out, but the Patriots’ gamble to score two points rather than kick the extra point failed, opening the door for Henrico. The Warriors turned, of course, to Ellison, scoring his final touchdown on a nine-yard pass from Chambers. The extra point from Cullen Bryant was low, wobbled, but found its way over the crossbar and between the uprights to send the Warriors into celebration.
Both the Confederates and Patriots now prepare for county rivals trying to shake off defeats that couldn’t have come in more different ways. Their opponents, Hanover and Atlee, had totally different experiences last Friday.
The Hawks’ struggles offensively continued at Varina in their Capital District opener, watching the Blue Devils pull away in the second half for a 42-3 victory to move Hanover to 1-3. Meanwhile, Atlee found itself down by five points with a quarter to go at Armstrong, but a 198-yard rushing performance by Tyler Warren and timely defense helped Atlee mount a 20-0 run in the final stanza to earn the Raiders’ first victory of the year, 37-22 over the Wildcats.
NOTES: Patrick Henry is currently in fourth place in the first Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 4, Region B power rankings released Monday by the league office. The Patriots, with 23.25 points, are only .25 ahead of unbeaten Eastern View. Hanover is currently in seventh place with 18.25 points, just .25 ahead of #8 Midlothian and .45 ahead of #9 King George. The top eight teams make the playoffs. In Class 5, Region B, Lee-Davis is in fifth place (24.5), while Atlee is 14th (17.75). The top eight teams also make the postseason in 5B. The Lee-Davis at Hanover game is the Game of The Week and can be heard Friday at 6:30 p.m. live on WHAN Radio (102.9 FM/1430 AM), and online at the link at HanoverCountySports.net.