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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Cougars respond to challenge

BOX SCORE

“That’s game, that’s game,” George Cheetham shouted from the Courtland sidelines after watching teammate German Salazar return an interception for a touchdown.

Not quite. Both teams scored once more in the final 5 of play and the Cougars were knocking on the door again before deciding to kill the clock.

George Washington of Danville proved a worthy opponent, forging a 21–7 lead midway through the second quarter.

The Cougars (10–2) reasserted their dominance in the second half for a 56–34 victory, advancing to next week’s 4A–North regional semifinal at Sherando.

“I’m proud of you guys. The mark of a good team is being able to overcome adversity,” coach J.C. Hall told his players and coaches, then handed out game balls to Salazar (two interceptions), Anton Jenkins (161 rushing yards and four touchdowns), and special-teamer Kyle Talley (59-yard kickoff return, setting up a sixth touchdown).

“It was my first touchdown of the season,” Salazar said. “I was so excited. I just have to thank the D.L. for getting that pressure. They’ve been doing comebacks the whole game so I just read that.”

Another heads-up play produced the first points of the game. Eagle punter Caleb McGeough rolled to his left to buy more time, but Joe Tyson blocked his attempt.

Rather than take a safety, McGeough attempted to kick the ball a second time, whiffed and Tyson fell on the ball for a TD.

G.W.–Danville silenced the home crowd for a short while with its three spectacular scores: Hunter Byrnes connecting with Malik Clements on a 50-yard bomb down the visitors’ sidelines; Akeem Smith shedding several would-be tackles on his 40-yard scamper; and finally, C.J. Graves hurling over a Courtland defender en route to a 18-yard score.

Jenkins barely got to the goal line for his first score, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 21–14 at halftime.

Three first-half turnovers helped stymie the Cougars and starting quarterback Trevor Foster was knocked out of the contest with an injury to his left leg, to be replaced by Jabari Allen the rest of the way.

“We have heart and we have discipline,” Salazar said. “We’re going to keep fighting no matter what.”

A 22-yard pickup on his first carry put Jenkins over the 100-yard mark early in the second half. Courtland drove 80 yards on seven plays to tie the score on its first possession.

Of 52 designed running plays, only three lost yardage.

“We didn’t make any adjustments [at halftime],” Hall said. “We knew we were shooting ourselves in the foot and getting frustrated over simple stuff.”

The trio of Jenkins, Cheetham and Victor Greene sparked the ground game that totaled nearly 400 rushing yards and 24 first downs.

“Everybody talks about our backs and forgets about our line,” Hall observed. “And our line is unbelievable. Dewey Decatur is the leader up front, does a great job of blocking down.

“Those guys take pride blocking for our backs and our backs take pride blocking for each other. This is a tight-knit group and I hope we can keep it going.”

Cheetham admits it’s a tough task trying to contain the Cougars offense. “All week, we said, ‘Nobody is packing up their stuff today.’ Whatever we had to do to turn this around, we did it,” he said.

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