The Gridiron Blog brings you the scores, stats and stories from Fredericksburg-area high school football.
Region I, Division 4 Final: Cougars’ season ends on down note
JOHNSON, CLIPPERS KEEP COURTLAND’S PASS RUSH AT BAY, ADVANCE TO STATE SEMIFINALS
For photos from Saturday’s three Region Championship games, click here.
BY JUSTIN RICE
YORK—Grafton quarterback Jett Johnson was within reach of Courtland defensive linemen Chris Kernisky and Matt Knowles.
Third down and 11 yards to go. Third down and 10. Third down and 21. Whatever the distance, it didn’t seem to matter. The Cougars couldn’t get a stop when they needed to.
Marcus Spearman ran for 121 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns—two in the fourth quarter—and Johnson burned Courtland (8–4) on several key third-down plays as the Clippers topped the Cougars, 38–24, last night in the Region I, Division 4 final.
Grafton will host Region II champion Briar Woods in the state semifinals next Saturday.
“Basically when they had to, they made the plays,” Courtland coach J.C. Hall said. “The third downs were the story of the game.”
The Clippers (9–3) were 6-of-9 converting third downs of at least 8 yards, with Johnson throwing completions on five of those downs.
The last came on third-and-9 with four minutes to play in the fourth quarter and Courtland within a touchdown.
Johnson avoided pressure, rolled to his right and found Cole Swartwood for a 14-yard gain and a key first down.
The conversion kept a time-eating drive alive, and led to Grafton’s game-clinching touchdown—a 5-yard run by Spearman with 2:20 remaining.
“[Johnson] is fast and quick,” Kernisky said. “He’s quick on his feet. I give credit to him. He’s a really good player.”
That final drive sucked the last bit of life out of Courtland, which had rallied twice to close within one score.
Grafton led 24–10 with 9:32 left in the game, when Courtland quarterback Nick Zaluzney hit E.J. Green for a 51-yard strike, making it a one-score game for the first time since the second quarter.
But the Clippers answered back with Spearman’s 59-yard touchdown run.
The Cougars had another response.
Darien Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for his second touchdown of the game—he also caught a first-quarter 30-yard pass from Zaluzney—and Courtland trailed, 31–24.
That set up Grafton’s game-sealing drive.
First came Johnson’s elusive escape and pass to Swartwood.
Then when Courtland seemed to have earned a stop again—Grafton sent out its kicker to attempt a 28-yard field goal with 2:40 left to play—the Cougars were called offsides, giving the Clippers another key first down.
Spearman scored on the very next snap.
“We’re down one touchdown,” Hall said. “We make one more play, and it’s a tie game but we never got that opportunity.”
Courtland 7 3 0 14 — 24
Grafton 14 7 0 17 — 38
Grafton 14 7 0 17 — 38
Ct-D. Grant 30-yard pass from N. Zaluzney (A. Cimini kick)
Gr-D. Bartells 6-yard run (B. Anderson kick)
Gr-M. Spearman 26-yard run (B. Anderson kick)
Ct-A. Cimini 21-yard field goal
Gr-M. Spearman 1-yard run (B. Anderson kick)
Gr-B. Anderson 28-yard field goal
Ct-E. Green 51-yard pass from N. Zaluzney (A. Cimini kick)
Gr-M. Spearman 59-yard run (B. Anderson kick)
Ct-D. Grant 78-yard kick return (A. Cimini kick)
Gr-M. Spearman 5-yard run (B. Anderson kick)
First downs9 19
Rushing yardage19-91 46-240
Passing yardage170 152
Rushing: Grafton—Marcus Spearman 22-121, 4TD; Dylan Bartells 10-83, TD; Jett Johnson 7-25; Cole Swartwood 5-10; Jesse Santiago 1-1; Zach Lechtahaler 1-0. Courtland—Kirk Wilson 7-39; Darien Grant 4-28; Brandon Mason 8-24.
Passing: Grafton—Jett Johnson 9-16-1 152; Cole Swartwood 0-1-0 0. Courtland—Nick Zaluzney 8-21-2 170, 2TD.
Receiving: Grafton—Dylan Stallings 2-51; Jesse Santiago 3-39; Cole Swartwood 3-29; Marcus Spearman 1-23. Courtland—EJ Green 4-109, TD; Darien Grant 2-33, TD; Jesse Belcastro 1-24; Chris Carpenter 1-4.
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045