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Group AA, Region I Football Semifinal: Foxes can’t finish final push on Packers
KING GEORGE RALLIES
FROM TWO SCORES DOWN,
BUT SMITHFIELD PULLS AWAY
FROM TWO SCORES DOWN,
BUT SMITHFIELD PULLS AWAY
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
THE FREE LANCE–STAR
SMITHFIELD—The King George High School football team was on an emotional high.
Senior wide receiver Alon Clipper had just hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Xavier James in the Foxes’ Region I, Division 4 semifinal Saturday against host Smithfield.
The Foxes knew with one defensive stop and another score, they could be headed to the regional championship game.
Clipper’s touchdown tied the contest at 14 with 4:58 remaining, but the Foxes couldn’t hold off the Packers on the ensuing drive.
Smithfield scored on running back Trevor Batten’s 7-yard rush with 2:44 remaining. James was then intercepted by Deontre Fenner and the Packers escaped with a hard-fought 21–14 victory.
Smithfield (10–1) will host Courtland next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for the regional championship, while King George (8–3) sees its best season in years come to an end.
“We were up there, but we knew it wasn’t over yet,” James said of the team’s emotions after his pass to Clipper. “We knew we had to stop them one more time and we knew we had to score one more time. We just couldn’t get it done.”
The Packers cemented the game with a 55-yard drive that began with back-to-back runs of 24 and 22 yards by senior running back Kyon Corker.
It was the first signs of life for Smithfield in the second half. The Packers dominated the first half en route to a
14–0 advantage, but struggled offensively until the final drive.
“They were coming at us hard and we felt they were a little bit vulnerable to the trap [play] and we popped a few in there,” Smithfield coach Richard Harrell said of what clicked on the key drive. “We really felt like we had kind of wore them down a little bit at the end, too.”
King George’s comeback began when offensive coordinator Robbie Henderson decided to remove his son, Corey Henderson, from the quarterback position at halftime.
Corey was an all-Battlefield District selection at quarterback and linebacker, but because of his inability to run the ball, King George’s coaches felt the Packers were keying on running back Jordi Estes.
So they inserted James, who played quarterback in the past, but not this season. James practiced at quarterback earlier in the week, but his insertion caught the Packers off-guard.
He rushed for 21 yards on the first play out of intermission.
“Everyone was excited after that,” James said. “The linemen, they wanted to block. The receivers, they wanted to run their routes harder. Everybody just stepped up as a team.”
James later added a 19-yard run. His 20-yard completion to Jacob Baker on 4th-and-12 from the 29 set up Deshon Brown’s 5-yard touchdown run to pull King George within 14–7 midway through the third quarter.
Harrell said the Packers scouted only Henderson and they assumed Brown was his backup.
“I don’t know if it shocked us, but it surprised us,” Harrell said of James’ insertion. “We hadn’t seen him. We didn’t even know he existed.”
The Foxes recovered a fumble at the Smithfield 34-yard line on the next possession, but ultimately had to settle for a 35-yard field goal attempt that hit the upright and missed.
Their defense stiffened, however. It forced a Smithfield punt on the following possession.
And after James threw the first of two interceptions, King George held the Packers without points even though they took over at the Foxes’ 12-yard line.
It all set the stage for King George’s rally, which fell short. Some Foxes were in tears following the game, but the coaching staff told them they have a lot to be proud of. King George had missed the playoffs nine straight seasons before 2011, but has made two straight postseason appearances.
“I think it keeps us hungry,” head coach Jeff Smith said of the way his team competed Saturday. “With the way our program is going, it’s definitely going in the right direction. The kids, the coaching staff, the school, the community definitely put a lot into turning the program around. Hopefully, we’ve built that steppingstone to get it to the next level.”
King George 0 0 7 7 — 14
Smithfield 0 14 0 7 — 21
Sm-K. Croker 3-yard run (J. Anderson kick)
Sm-B. Cypress 30-yard run (J. Anderson kick)
KG-D. Brown 5-yard run (L. Armentrout kick)
KG-A. Clipper 30-yard pass from X. James (J. Haas kick)
Sm-T. Batten 7-yard run (J. Anderson kick)
First downs 9 10
Rushing yardage 32-98 39-293
Passing yardage 132 25
Passes 6-16-3 4-7-0
Punts-Avg. 4-31.7 5-28.4
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-35 3-23
Rushing: Smithfield—Kyon Croker 14-133, TD; Trevon Batten 12-110, TD; Bruce Cypress 4-49, TD; Marquis Childress 3-2; Jermaal Wells 6-(-1). King George—Xavier James 10-65; Jordi Estes 15-24; Deshon Brown 5-7, TD; Jacob Baker 1-3; Corey Henderson 1-(-1).
Passing: Smithfield—Jermaal Wells 4-7-0 25. King George—Xavier James 4-7-2 76, TD; Corey Henderson 1-7-1 9; Jordi Estes 1-1-0 47; Deshon Brown 0-1-0 0.
Receiving: Smithfield—Bruce Cypress 2-14; Marcel Curry 2-11. King George—Raheem White 1-47; Jordi Estes 2-26; Jacob Baker 1-20; Deshon Brown 1-9.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526