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By Jeffery McClintock
The only thing sweeter than beating your archrivals in football might be taking the game away from them in the last seconds of the fourth quarter, and that is just what Staunton River did to William Byrd, on a wet and cold Friday night in Vinton.
In a game that River Head Coach Chuck Poston called, “The sweetest victory I’ve ever been a part of in 18 years of coaching,” the Eagles took a 24 – 20 win, and in doing so kept their playoff hopes alive.
The drama began later in the third quarter, when Byrd running back Simeon Horstmann scored from four yards out to put the Terriers up 20 -12 with less than two minutes to go.
On the Eagles’ next offensive possession, the already-depleted roster took what appeared to be another devastating blow when do-everything back Jarret Moon was injured and left the field. After a holding call, banged-up River QB Deshawn Martin came just a little short of the first down with a 12-yard run, but a personal foul on Byrd gave the Eagles life and a first down.
With the rain picking up, Moon reentered the game and, on his fourth carry of the drive, took off up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion left Byrd in the lead at 20 – 18 with nine minutes to go in the game.
Zac Hill then took the Eagle kickoff 36 yards to the River 21 yard line, but the Terriers shot themselves in the foot again. As a result of a block-in-the-back on the return, the ball was spotted at the Byrd 41. Hortsmann became the workhorse for the Terriers, gaining 28 yards on six plays and clicking seconds off the game clock.
The Eagle defense stiffened and shut down Hortsmann, and after an incomplete pass on fourth down, River had the ball at their own 35, trailing by two and with just under four minutes left to play.
The big play
Poston had a plan. “We wanted to keep the game close. We’re a power team and they’re a power team.”
River gave the Terriers a steady diet of Moon, and he did not disappoint, carrying the ball for 31 yards as time continued to tick off the clock. An incomplete pass and a Terrier stop of Moon, and the Eagles faced a fourth-and-eight.
Time to hand off to Moon. Right? Wrong.
How about, time to throw it to Moon? With Martin faking the handoff, the QB shook off a Terrier linebacker and drifted down the left sideline with no one in a five-yard radius of Moon, and Martin hung a tight spiral in his direction. First down Eagles at the Byrd four.
Moon finished the clinching drive two plays later, barreling in from the one to seal the deal 24 – 20 with 21 seconds remaining. What flicker of hope the Terriers had of pulling off their own miracle ended in the hands of Kyle Jones, who picked off the Zac Hill pass on the Terriers’ third play.
Coach Poston spoke on that call on fourth and eight to throw: “There was no doubt in my mind...if we got in that situation that was the play we were going to throw and, by golly, if we didn’t execute.”
Let’s take some time, though, to give kudos to the man who threw that pass. Martin limped through the better part of the game, but came up huge in the crunch. Poston had nothing but praise for his QB saying, “He’s still banged (up) but he gave us a chance to win the ball game and that is all you can (ask).”
-Moon broke the 200 yard plateau again this season, running for 231 yards on 34 carries. In addition to the game winning one yard carry he also had runs of 75 and 32.
-Horstmann and Hill each racked up 125 yards for the Terriers. Hill was contained to 1-for-7 passing, for 13 yards, however.
-Brian Ellis led the Eagles with eight tackles. Trevian White and Cortland Frederick each contributed six.
-Timmy Meador had ten tackles for Byrd. Juan Lopes added eight.
-Kyle Jones and Marcus Brown recovered fumbles for Staunton River