MIDLOTHIAN – Last weekend, it was a little bit of history.
This time around, it was a Hollywood-style ending.
Forty-three game-time minutes had passed, and Clover Hill’s 20-7 lead suggested that Powhatan wouldn’t back up its victory over Midlothian on a rare final score of 2-0 the previous Friday.
But high school regulation goes 48 minutes.
And Powhatan made those last 5 count.
A botched punt sparked the visitors in the stands as Powhatan pounced on the punter at Clover Hill’s 15, turning the ball back over to the Indians on downs. Powhatan quarterback Hans Rehme would soon cut around the right to punch in a 2-yard score. Powhatan now trailed by 6. Less than 4 minutes remained.
Mason Pinnell drilled a kick that Clover Hill returned to its 25. Powhatan's defense went back up.
Clover Hill gained a first down, then tried to chip away at both the field and the clock on the next drive.
It was 3rd and 6. The ball carrier took advantage of some blocking up front to swing around to the right.
But he only got one yard as Powhatan’s defenders were there to meet him. A penalty flag flew after the first punt, pushing Clover Hill back 5 extra yards and forcing them to try again.
The Indians got the ball back at their 44.
They went to work.
Incomplete passes alternated with fruitful plays to break up the clock. A pitch taken along the left side by Nate Moyer for a 9 yard gain here. A slicing run up the field from quarterback Aaron Nash to the opponent’s 39 there.
And then Rehme delivered the pass into the hands of Fisher Hamersley, who turned on the jets to power the ball to the Cavaliers’ 4 yard line.
“It was a great read by the quarterback,” said Powhatan head football coach Mike Henderson. “He ran to open space – threw to open space – but he just made a play.”
A penalty soon moved Powhatan up to the 2 yard line. But less than 20 seconds remained when Rehme arched the ball upwards and towards the left corner.
Wide receiver Jaysun Carroll watched the pass sail his way.
“I was just praying that I was gonna get that ball,” Carroll said.
A defender was there. Both he and Carroll leaped up as the ball came to them.
Carroll crashed to the ground…
….having high-pointed and hauled in the ball in the end zone. He, his teammates and Powhatan's fans celebrated for the first of three consecutive times after his money catch tied the game at 20-all.
The second occurrence followed Pinnell kicking the point-after-touchdown through the uprights to send Powhatan into a one-point lead.
And then the third capped the defense’s final stop, which secured Powhatan’s wild, come-from-behind 21-20 victory over Clover Hill.
The movie-like rally elevated the Indians’ record to 3-1 overall and to 3-0 in their return to the Dominion District.
For three quarters, it was a lot of excellent defense and not a whole lot of offense, Coach Henderson pointed out.
“Our defense just keeps playing,” Henderson said. “Just keeps playing, keeps playing, puts us in good field position.”
Chase Gayness rolled out 10 solo tackles including 2 for a loss; he caught an interception late in the first half and also blocked a PAT kick to hold Clover Hill to a 6-0 lead early in the game.
Josh Jordan also brought down an interception on the pass tipped by his teammate Isaac Trent, and TJ Gates reeled off 7 solo tackles, including one for a loss. Brien Clay had 6 solo tackles and Trent made 5. Cam Arnold hammered the quarterback on a 10-yard sack to help set up Powhatan’s first scoring drive of the game.
“Defense is key right now,” Carroll emphasized. “We grew up as a brotherhood. We grew up as a team. We’ve been working.”
“We play hard,” Henderson added. “We might not be executing great on offense, but we’re playing hard, and we finally were able to make some plays…the defense kept us in the game the whole time – one stop after another, and then we took advantage of the turnover” that helped set up Powhatan’s 14-point rally.
Carroll finished the night with 2 touchdowns and 93 yards on 4 catches.
“We’ve been trying to say: Throw the ball to #11 a lot,” Henderson said, referring to Carroll. “Last week he was hurt and couldn’t play a whole lot of offense, but this week….we just say: Throw to him, let him make a play.”
Rehme, who rotated into the role of signal-caller along with Nash throughout the game, completed 9 passes on 25 tries for 170 yards and both touchdown passes; he engineered all three of his team's touchdowns as he also added 12 yards and a score on 5 carries.
Clover Hill got off to a quick start, steadily moving the chains on the game-opening drive both through the air and along the ground before Kendall Cross sliced his way up the middle for a 4-yard score.
But immediately from there, Powhatan's defense and special teams kicked into high gear, as Gayness blocked the Cavaliers' extra point kick. The two teams traded possessions before Arnold drove Clover Hill's quarterback 10 yards backwards to force 3rd and long; an incomplete pass brought out the punting unit, and Powhatan got the ball back at its 33.
And then at last came the offense's turn to shine.
Rehme launched the pass to Carroll as he briefly ran in the open before a defender sprinted over to try and contest the pass.
Carroll made the grab, and from there, he set sail, dashing to the house on the 67-yard bomb.
They’ve been looking for those big plays all season, Carroll said.
“We needed those,” he said. “It’s finally coming together right now.”
“We have a lot of guys that can make plays, and we’ve just got to be more consistent,” Henderson said. “We find a way to get it done.”
Pinnell footed the ball through the uprights for the go-ahead extra point, and Powhatan took a 7-6 lead with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
But Clover Hill in the second picked-off a play-action pass and brought it back inside Powhatan's 35; a personal foul penalty lifted the Cavaliers even further up to the Indians' 20. The Cavaliers steadily moved forward again before driving the ball across the goal line on 4th and 1 to take back the lead before halftime. Clover Hill added the extra point to go up 13-7.
Clover Hill went up by 13 in the third quarter on a 33-yard strike to Jaden Johnson, and penalties and struggles with execution – 12 passes completed on 35 combined attempts from the two quarterbacks, and 64 team rushing yards total - hampered Powhatan’s offense up until the last 5 minutes of the game. But Clover Hill’s botched punt, which turned the ball over to Powhatan on the Cavaliers’ 15 yard line, re-energized the Indians.
“We’re not happy with how we played offensively, but we are getting better,” Henderson said. “Slowly, slowly – but we’re getting better.”
Powhatan’s taking its 3-game win streak back to its home field on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m., when the venerable L.C. Bird Skyhawks come to town.
“3-0 in the Dominion District feels really good,” Henderson said. “You’ve got to enjoy any win you get…but we know we’ve got a lot of work to do to get back to it on Monday.”