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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Cougars gallant, but come up short

BOX SCORE

STEPHENS CITY—Courtland sophomore running back George Cheetham stood on the Sherando field at the end of the Cougars’ 27–20 loss to the Warriors in the Group 4A state quarterfinals Friday night in disbelief.

The Cougars were in position to take the lead with a little more than four minutes remaining when they committed their first major miscue of the night.

Courtland didn’t have any penalties the entire game, or turnovers up to that point.

But a rushed exchange between running backs Cheetham and Victor Greene led to a fumble that the Warriors recovered with the score tied at 20.

Sherando promptly marched 69 yards in five plays, spurred by a 51-yard run by Daniel Eppard, on the first snap.

The drive ended in George Aston’s third touchdown run of the game, a 1-yard burst with 3:15 remaining. The Warriors (12–1) stopped Courtland’s last-ditch effort to preserve a hard-fought victory.

Sherando, the No. 1 seed in 4A North, will host Salem next Saturday in the state semifinals.

“Honestly this doesn’t make sense to me because I knew we had this in the bag,” Cheetham said. “If we did what we were supposed to do we were going to move on. But it is what it is. Game’s over. We lost, so we’ve just got to get back next year.”

The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Cougars (10–3). Courtland head coach J.C. Hall told his players “the sun will come up tomorrow” but he was also stunned by the late fumble.

Cheetham said Greene realized a Sherando defender read the double handoff perfectly so he attempted to make a quick toss. Courtland was at the Sherando 22-yard line facing third-and-2. Cheetham said he had the ball between his legs in the pile but the Warriors managed to steal it, and the momentum.

“That was huge. That was the ball game really,” Sherando head coach Bill Hall said. “It kind of boiled down to that. I think it says a lot about the character of our kids. They were having a lot of success running the ball, but we just kept playing each play, made them earn it and the fact that we made a play, created a turnover, that was a momentum switch.”

The Cougars appeared to have taken control of the game. They tied the score at 20 on junior fullback Anton Jenkins’ second 1-yard touchdown run of the game with 10:47 remaining. They then forced a punt and converted a critical fourth-and-1 on a Jenkins plunge with 7:44 left.

Two plays later, Cheetham broke tackles and raced around the left side for a 20-yard gain. Greene gained 7 yards on the next play and Courtland was seemingly in good shape.

“We were in control, I felt like,” J.C. Hall said. “We were doing some good things, just wasn’t meant to be.”

Cheetham, Greene and Jenkins all rushed for 1,000 yards this season, but neither reached 100 against Sherando’s stingy defense. Cheetham led the way with 66 yards. Jenkins amassed 55 and two scores.

Greene was held to 29 yards, but his 1-yard second-quarter touchdown run gave Courtland its only lead of the game, 13–6. The play was set up when Courtland’s Connor Ray sacked Sherando quarterback Reid Entsminger and Jeremy Hokenson recovered the fumble at the Warriors’ 1.

Sherando tied the game at 13 on Aston’s second touchdown of the game and it regained the lead, 20–13 on Entsminger’s 2-yard touchdown run 27 seconds before halftime.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, setting the stage for the dramatic final period.

After Courtland fell behind 27–20, the Cougars had one final chance. They marched from their own 17 to the 49, but quarterback Jabari Allen was sacked on fourth down to end the threat. Allen pounded the ground in frustration as the Cougars realized their season had come to an end.

“We definitely gave it our all out there,” Allen said. “We’re going to states next year. We’re not going to have another one of these. We’re coming back for states.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/hsfb/2013/11/29/high-school-football-cougars-gallant-but-come-up-short/

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