The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
Region I, Div. 4 Football: Foxes hold on for win
By STEVE FRANZELLO
When King George’s Jacob Baker pulled down an interception with less than a minute to go in Friday’s 34–28 victory over Grafton, the Foxes—and their fans—let out a collective sigh of relief.
Baker’s pick of Clippers quarterback Evan Sperling’s pass at the Grafton 30 silenced a torrid comeback by the Clippers in the final five minutes and preserved King George’s first playoff win in 11 years.
“Thank goodness for that interception,” Foxes coach Jeff Smith said. “We knew Grafton was a very good football team. We had scrimmaged them at the beginning of the season.”
The Region I, Division 4 quarterfinal victory propelled the Foxes (9–2) into next Saturday’s semifinal round, where they’ll visit second-seeded Smithfield.
The loss ended the season for Grafton, but the Clippers looked a lot better than a team with a 4–7 record. They were the only team to defeat Smithfield this season.
On a night filled with big plays and hard hitting on both sides, the Foxes came out on top thanks to some impressive individual performances and a solid team effort that refused to fold.
Quarterback Corey Henderson, running back Jordi Estes, and wide receiver DeShon Brown helped fuel a big night for the offense, which produced 372 yards.
Henderson threw for 257 the yards and tossed two touchdowns passes, including one to Brown, who finished with nine receptions and 104 yards.
Estes was a workhorse all night, both on offense and defense. He rushed for 91-hard-earned yards and tied the game at 14–14 with a short scoring run after the Clippers had rallied for their only lead of the night.
Estes also made one of the biggest defensive plays of the game when he wrestled the ball away from Grafton’s Jesse Santiago in the end zone for an interception at the end of the first half.
“I got it and he came down on top of me—but I had my hands on it,” said Estes. “I wasn’t going to let go of it.”
Estes’ interception was one of two the Foxes made against Sperling, who displayed a strong arm throughout the contest. The 6–4 sophomore completed 20 of 29 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Clippers close. Santiago had six catches and two scores.
It didn’t take the Foxes long to break the 14–14 deadlock in the third quarter. Xavier James scored on a 1-yard scamper and then Henderson connected with Brown and Raheem White to put King George in front, 34–14.
But the Clippers scored on a 34-yard pass from Sperling to Byran Mitchell, and then recovered the ensuing onside kick and converted the possession into a touchdown run by Dylan Bartells. They got the ball back one final time before Baker killed the drive with his interception.
The Foxes celebrated after the victory, but they know they’ve still got work to do.
“We’re hungry,” said Brown. “We’re not satisfied. We want to beat Smithfield.”
Smith was proud of the way his team came back after Grafton stormed back in the game.
“There was a time when we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” Smith said. “But this team doesn’t quit. They want to do something special.”
Grafton 7 7 0 14 — 28
King George 7 7 6 14 — 34
KG-C. Henderson 2-yard run (L. Armentrout kick)
Gr-J. Santiago 77-yard pass from E. Sperling (B. Anderson kick)
Gr-J. Santiago 24-yard pass from E. Sperling (B. Anderson kick)
KG-J. Estes 1-yard run (L. Armentrout kick)
KG-X. James 1-yard run (kick failed)
KG-D. Brown 13-yard pass from C. Henderson (L. Armentrout kick)
KG-R. White 24-yard pass from C. Henderson (L. Armentrout kick)
Gr-B. Mitchell 34-yard pass from E. Sperling (B. Anderson kick)
Gr-D. Bartells 4-yard run (B. Anderson kick)
First downs14 18
Rushing yardage15-53 39-115
Passing yardage311 257
Rushing: King George—Jordi Estes 26-91, TD; Raheem White 1-8; Jacob Baker 3-7; Xavier James 2-5, TD; Kendall Harvey 1-2; Deshon Brown 1-1; Corey Henderson 5-1, TD. Grafton—Dylan Bartells 12-45, TD; Jesse Santiago 3-8.
Passing: King George—Corey Henderson 16-26-3 257, 2TD. Grafton—Evan Sperling 20-29-2 311, 3TD.
Receiving: King George—Deshon Brown 9-104, TD; Alon Clipper 2-73; Raheem White 3-64, TD; Jacob Baker 1-16. Grafton—Jesse Santiago 6-129, 2TD; Bryan Mitchell 6-84, TD; Dylan Bartells 2-45; Marcus Spearman 4-43; Tyrell Noel 2-10.
Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440