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Friday Night Football Feature: Direct approach benefits Black–Hawks’ Horsley

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BY NATHAN WARTERS

THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Brooke Point senior tailback Johnathan Horsley keeps a close eye on his offensive line and lets a play unfold before deciding on his course of direction.

“My coaches tell me I’m somewhat of a dancer more than getting downhill,” Horsley said. “If that’s the case, I guess that’s what works for me. I keep my eyes on the line, find the holes and let God take over from there, as coach [Jeff] Berry would say.”

If the Black–Hawks ever needed divine intervention, it may be these last two weeks of the season. At 3–5 heading into tonight’s home finale against Stafford, Brooke Point probably needs to win its final two games and hope for outside help to jump Broad Run for the sixth and final Division 5, Northwest Region playoff spot.

Stafford (3–6) is also still alive for the final playoff spot. The Indians, who finish their regular season tonight, are only three-tenths of a point behind Brooke Point in the power ratings.

“We have an opportunity, and we have a chance,” Indians head coach Chad Lewis said. “There are a lot of people that don’t. We haven’t put too much emphasis on it. We’ve put it all on playing well against Brooke Point and hopefully winning this last football game that we’ve got. That’s all we can control.”

Brooke Point’s players are well aware there’s still an opportunity to earn the school its eighth straight playoff appearance, despite efforts by Berry and his staff to keep the focus on simply playing well these final two Fridays.

“We haven’t even mentioned the ‘P’ word around here, because the reality is we’re a 3–5 football team,” Berry said. “We’re going to do what we did when we were 0–4 and 1–5 and come down here and just work on getting better at the little things that were hurting us early in the year, not worrying about what if this happens or that happens, because really it’s irrelevant.”

Brooke Point started the season 0–4 but has won three of its last four games. Horsley has been a big reason for the Black–Hawks’ recent turnaround.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Horsley has rushed for 768 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and seven of his scores have come in the last four games. He reached the end zone three times in a 48–14 win at Albemarle last week and also had three touchdowns in a win over Orange last month.

Horsley learned to become a better practice player at the end of last season, and the results have been telling.

He rushed for 307 yards and seven touchdowns on only 36 carries in the last four games of 2011, including three playoff contests, and he has been one of the area’s most dangerous rushers this season.

“Because he wasn’t a very good practice player, he didn’t understand the importance of it. He didn’t understand the importance of offseason work, and that’s kind of what he did. He kind of dedicated himself to the offseason, really wanted to be at every workout and not miss anything, and he’s practiced better and that’s shown on the field. That’s usually how that works,” Berry said.

Horsley is confronted with the reality that he may only have two games left in his high school career. He wants to do everything in his power, however, to make sure that’s not the case.

“It’s my senior year, and I want to be able to say I made it to the playoffs that eighth year in a row in my senior year,” Horsley said. “I don’t want to be the team that hasn’t made it.”

Defensive improvement was a point of emphasis for Stafford this week in practice. The Indians allowed averages of 56 points and 389.5 yards in their last two games against North Stafford and Mountain View, and they face a potent Black–Hawks offense that features Horsley and big-play wide receiver Tyus White.

“It’s been a little frustrating. I thought we played pretty well up until the past two weeks,” Lewis said. “We just really struggled. It’s a team game, but we have just really struggled on the defensive side of the ball.”

Stafford has a chance tonight to atone for its mistakes from the past two weeks and possibly earn a spot in the playoffs. Brooke Point’s postseason fate is on the line as well.

“We’ve just been trying to focus on doing things that we do well and just try to get better and then get better for Brooke Point,” Lewis said. “It’s a big rivalry. It’s the last game of the year. There are playoff implications possibly there. But more importantly, it’s a big game for us and these seniors.”

Said Horsley: “Nothing is promised to us. Our season hasn’t been the greatest, but we’re getting better and better week by week, so hopefully we can go out there and get a win.”

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442

nwarters@freelancestar.com

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