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By Jeff McClintock
Ah, high school homecoming. You know, that time of year when the court is announced and former alumni come back to relive memories with former teammates. The students are excited about the dance, and there is a general sense of excitement in the air.
Oh, and there is usually a football game, too. Friday night, Staunton River hosted James River in a homecoming game, and both teams put on a show, with the Eagles taking the game 42-21.
Although the final score sounded like this was an easy win, the game proved to have more twist and turns then a David Baldacci novel.
Staunton quarterback Cody Jones opened up the scoring on the first drive of the game, hooking up with Jarodd Nichols for a 65-yard touchdown reception.
After both teams exchanged possessions, James River would engineer a 12-play, 66 yard drive, which culminated in Knight QB Jordan Talbott’s connection with K.W. King for a short six-yard touchdown. That play knotted the score at seven-all.
That turn of events didn’t damper the Eagle spirits. SR Head Coach Chuck Poston opined, “We just kept getting after it. That is what we do.”
One of the things that Poston saw was Talbott slipping through the pressure of several Eagle defenders. The pressure was there, but the D couldn’t quite make the big stops. The Eagles also aided the drive with an offside penalty on a fourth and 1 play.
But adjustments were in the works. “The biggest thing we did was we went to a five cover guys. James River is very good at what they do they spread you out and they throw it all over the place.”
The results were evident throughout the game, with the Eagle defense making two goal line stands inside of its own five yard line, and intercepting Talbott in the end zone for a third turnover.
After James River had tied the score the Eagles scored on a three play, 62-yard drive that saw Jones break free off the right side for a 49 yard touchdown run.
Goal line stand number one saw the Knights take it down to the Eagles four yard line only to turn the ball over on downs.
Four plays later, Meech Coles broke free for a 77-yard touchdown run to push the Eagle advantage to 14 points.
On its next possession, James River would engineer another long drive: this one went nine plays for 73 yards. But it was all for naught, as Talbott would fumble the ball, and Eagle defensive end Solomon McCullough was there for the recovery.
Unfortunately the Eagles couldn’t capitalize, giving the ball back to the Knights.
Talbott and the Knights took over at their own 16 yard line and drove down to the Eagle 27, before Bobby Hobbs picked off a Talbott pass in the back corner of the end zone with 36 seconds left in the half.
A question and an answer
So, what do you do with that short amount of time and 75 yards between you and a score? Why, you hand if off to Coles, who scored from 72 yards out to give Staunton River a 28-7 advantage heading into the locker rooms.
Aided by the two long runs, Cole rushed for 202 yards on 13 carries in the first half alone. He would finish with 267 on 24 carries, with two touchdowns.
The second half started out more leisurely. Neither team was able to cross the goal line in the third stanza, and heading into the fourth the score remained Staunton River 28 James River 7.
James River would engineer a 12-play drive that had started late in the third quarter and finished with Talbott calling his own number from the one, to cut the Eagle lead in half 28-14 with a little over ten minutes remaining.
A little adversity provided the potential defining moment.
Poston: “When you get a chance to put the game away, you need to just grind and grind.”
So what was the coach’s plan? “I told Meech (Coles) that I was going to run him until the wheels fell off.”
The Eagles took over on their own 23 yard line and went 77 yards on 13 plays, with Coles providing the pounding on eight of those plays.
And when Jones scored from nine yards out on the bootleg, there were just over two minutes left in the game.
Poston further explained the drive, saying, “ We pounded it and pounded it and then finished it off with that little bootleg. That is what I want Staunton River football to be.”
Eagle D rises again
On James River’s next possession, the Eagle defense would pick off their third Talbott pass. This one was plucked by Eagle linebacker Brian Ellis, who would score from 33 yards out.
When asked about the interception, Ellis said, “It was kind of ironic, because I had one last game like that. I was just thinking that I needed to take this one back for the team. I just felt like I didn’t have as good a game as I should have.”
Consider yourself forgiven, Mr. Ellis.
James River would score a late touchdown to cut the deficit, but the homecoming party had already started.
Ellis echoed his coach’s post-game thoughts, saying. “I think we are a great team. I think that we have proved we are a good team.”
And as Poston said, “It wasn’t pretty.” But these Eagles are doing something that used to be rare for them, and that is win.