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Prep Football: Wolverines get ‘lucky’
BY STEVE DeSHAZO
Even with talent and experience on their side, the North Stafford Wolverines aren’t about to turn down a little good fortune.
They needed all three Friday night to pull out a dramatic 24–23 victory over visiting Massaponax in a battle of two of the Commonwealth District’s preseason favorites.
“We were very lucky, plain and simple,” Wolverines coach Joe Mangano said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
So were the Panthers after a bizarre punt play gave North Stafford the ball at the Massaponax 2 late in the game. Leading 23–17, Keith Phelps’ punt struck teammate Vinny Mihota in the back of the helmet and bounced into the end zone.
Mihota—who had earlier recovered a North Stafford fumble in the same end zone for a score—chased down the ball and advanced it to the 2.
On the Wolverines’ third play, quarterback Von Purvis scooted around left end for a 1-yard touchdown. Joey Slye’s kick provided the go-ahead margin, and Cedric Watkins’ subsequent interception helped North Stafford (3–0, 2–0 Commonwealth) escape.
The pivotal play “was a relief,” said North Stafford’s Brandon Ravenel, who caught two touchdown passes from Purvis. “I had confidence that we could drive 40 yards. But when we got the ball at the 2, that was big.”
The Panthers (3–1, 1–1) had been punting rugby style all night, with Phelps waiting an extra second or two before kicking to allow his teammates more time to get downfield. The idea was to minimize the chances that the Wolverines’ two dangerous return men, Ravenel and Anthony Shegog, could get the ball in the open field.
On the crucial play, though, the strategy backfired.
“We made a mistake in the kicking game, and you can’t do that against a good team like North Stafford,” Massaponax coach Eric Ludden said. “We’ll look at the film and see what we did wrong.
“The idea was to allow our guys to get downfield. It was effective all night—until the end.”
That could have summed up Massaponax’s night. The Panthers led for most of the game, ripping off a crisp nine-play, 81-yard drive on their opening possession, capped by Alphonzo Trice’s 4-yard run. Javonte Latney (112 yards rushing) ran in the conversion for a 8–0 lead.
The Wolverines made it 8–7 with a 12-play, 87-yard march, punctuated by Ravenel’s 5-yard TD catch.
But after North Stafford’s Tyler Bailey intercepted a halfback option pass by Massaponax’s Kelvin Forson at his own 3, Purvis fumbled the shotgun snap, and Mihota fell on the ball for a 15–7 lead.
Joey Slye kicked a 46-yard field goal to bring North Stafford within 15–10 at halftime after Dadzie Kwesie’s apparent 70-yard touchdown run was erased by a holding penalty downfield.
Even without the score, Dadzie finished with a game-high 152 yards on 18 carries, adding some diversity to North Stafford’s offense.
“[Dadzie] makes things a lot easier on us,” Ravenel said. “He’s playing like a Division I running back. If you want to stack the box against us, we’ll throw it. If you want to double-cover me or Anthony, we’ll run it down your throat. Pick your poison.”
Ravenel’s 51-yard touchdown catch on a gorgeous throw from Purvis gave the Wolverines their first lead of the night, 17–15, just 2:15 into the second half.
But Latney’s 5-yard run late in the third period—and Trice’s conversion pass to Dhevyn Anderson—put Massaponax back on top, setting the stage for a dramatic fourth quarter.
Mangano would prefer fewer heart-stopping performances from his defending district champions. But in the first month of the season, the Wolverines have beaten the two district teams expected to give them the toughest challenge: Mountain View and Massaponax.
Next Friday brings a visit to surprising Riverbend (3–1), which has already topped its victory total of 2011.
“We are a championship team,” Mangano said. “We’ve been through the battles, and we hope the worst is behind us. We’ve got to clean up the mistakes: the fumbled snap in the end zone, the touchdown that got called back.
“But what I like about these guys is that every time we faced adversity, they showed some resiliency.”
Massaponax visits Mountain View next Friday.
Massaponax 8 7 8 0 — 23
North Stafford 0 10 7 7 — 24
Ma-A. Trice 4-yard run (J. Latney 2-pt run)
NS-B. Ravenel 5-yard pass from V. Purvis (J. Slye kick)
Ma-V. Mihota fumble recovery in end zone (K. Phelps kick)
NS-J. Slye 46-yard field goal
NS-B. Ravenel 51-yard pass from V. Purvis (J. Slye kick)
Ma-J. Latney 5-yard run (D. Anderson from A. Trice)
NS-V. Purvis 1-yard run (J. Slye kick)
First downs19 19
Rushing yardage49-252 34-179
Passing yardage42 166
Rushing: North Stafford—Kwesi Dadzi 18-152; Von Purvis 14-27, TD; Brandon Ravenel 2-0. Massaponax—Javonte Latney 24-112, TD; Joey Foster 7-50; Alphonzo Trice 9-42, TD; AJ Forbes 8-34; Darren Gary 1-14.
Passing: North Stafford—Von Purvis 11-18-2 166, 2TD. Massaponax—Alphonzo Trice 5-13-1 42; Kelvin Forson 0-1-1 0.
Receiving: North Stafford—Brandon Ravenel 9-137, 2TD; Anthony Shegog 2-36. Massaponax—Darren Gary 2-23; AJ Forbes 1-11; Gus Little 1-9; Joey Foster 1-(-1).
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443