POWHATAN - The evening before he began a new chapter in his life by heading to Ferrum to kick-off his freshman year of college, Sean McQueen got to step foot on Blessed Sacrament Huguenot's football field once again - this time as a graduate.
He joined the Knights' team captains for the coin toss that opened the BSH Football benefit game held in his honor.
"It means a lot that everyone remembers me and what I've been through," said Sean, who all his life has endured having Fanconi Anemia - a rare, lifelong disease that prevents bone marrow from making enough new blood cells for the body to work properly - and throughout his time at BSH had seen - and still continues to see - strong support from the school and the Knights' community.
BSH Football made the game even sweeter for Sean and the home fans by dominating the second half to run past visiting Rappahannock County 31-14.
"It means the world, because...I knew him since he was a freshman..." BSH Football senior fullback Chase Musselman said of Sean. "He's always been a strong part of this football team, so it's good that we can put on a strong performance for him."
"He's always wanted to do everything to help," said junior quarterback Trevor Parker, praising how Sean has managed the team like "he's the father of the team really - it's awesome."
"It's heartwarming to see," Musselman said.
At halftime, Sean, who held the role of BSH Football team manager since his freshman season, observed that the Knights were running the ball really well - quarterback Trevor Parker wrapped up the night with 116 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries - and that the defense looked good.
An amazing debut
James Hawkins played his first 48 game time minutes of varsity football on Friday night.
It was hard to tell...
...with "hard to tell" being a vast, vast understatement.
With his team down by one point and stalling out at the opposition's 23 in the third quarter, the senior and BSH soccer standout set up for the field goal attempt at the 30 yard line and, with his foot, sent the ball sailing through the air.
It arched up, flew directly through the middle of the uprights, and cleared the low bar to send his Knights into a 10-8 lead on a beauty of a 40-yard kick.
"What a performance!" Parker exclaimed. "Straight down the middle every time! That man is crazy!"
"We haven't had a kid come in here and do that in a long, long time," said head coach Gary Brock. "I think our guys on the sideline were sitting there with their mouths wide open: I can't believe he hit that. But the thing is he's been hitting those in practice - he's been hitting all the way up to like 47. Tremendous game by him, it really was. Very fortunate."
Hawkins made all four of his point-after-touchdown attempts, pinned the Panthers deep in their own territory on punts and delivered multiple kickoffs for touchbacks.
"He's a legit weapon - he really is," Brock said. "I can't say enough about him; he turned the ballgame around for us tonight."
Defense ramps up
When the benefit game ended under the Friday Night Lights, defensive coordinator Patrick Winterrowd praised the team's huge second half before saying that the defense played "lights out" in the stretch.
The unit stayed in the fight from start to finish, and huge second-half plays like David Mann's tackle to force a turnover on downs, Ben Newton's sack to force third and long and fumbles forced and recovered by Josh Decker paved the way for the Knights to unleash a storm of 24 unanswered points and catapult themselves out of a narrow 8-7 deficit - which they faced after giving up a 33-yard touchdown pass and the follow-up two-point conversion - and into a commanding 31-8 lead before the final 32 seconds of the contest.
"Coming out in the second half on fire just really pushes our team towards the rest of the season," Parker said.
"We had to go to something completely different and we had to spread it out and do some things that we don't normally do - we're young and hopefully we learn from this," said Brock, who called Friday night's benefit game "a great sendoff" for Sean. He added of his players: "I'm proud of them."
Musselman credited the elevated second-half efforts to captain leadership and quarterback leadership, and Parker also pointed to talks in the locker room from the coaches.
"We have to bring these younger kids kind of to their senses, because they have never experienced a varsity football game before, so we kind of let 'em know that: Hey, after the first hit, you'll realize it's just like practice," Musselman said.
"And you can't let 'em get their heads down too soon," Parker said. "If they get their heads down, they won't come back up."
Defense did flex its resiliency early in the game before locking down Rappahannock County though most of the second half. The visiting Panthers ate eight minutes and 18 seconds off the first-quarter clock in their game-opening drive alone as, down-by-down, they steadily marched all the way into the Knights' red zone using the ground game.
They went no further than the 11, as Ben Newton delivered a big stop to force fourth down, and then Parker swooped in to bring down the ball carrier on the next play and get a turnover on downs that gave the Knights' offense the ball for the first time in the game.
The Panthers also looked to break through on their next drive, with the ball carrier thundering all the way from his team's own 5 to the 50. But he fumbled the ball away, and BSH Football's Harrison Lee made the recovery to set up a 46-yard scoring drive that was capped by a red-zone rushing touchdown from Nick Dawson.
In a rush to score
When quarterback Trevor Parker found open space, he was hard to contain.
The agile junior quarterback not only led the Knights' rushing attack on the evening, but he found running room up the middle and around the edges to continuously shorten the distance between the offense and the goal line. He scored all three of his touchdowns in the second half on a four-yard rush around the right side, a knifing nine-yard dash up the middle and a beautiful 35-yard romp that saw him dart through a hole created by a block from Chase Musselman.
"Musselman had a great block," Parker said. "He helped me get around the corner."
Musselman also mixed into the run game himself as the six-foot, 240-pound fullback delivered a couple key runs, including an 11-yard punch up the middle to get his team a first down.
Brock anticipates a tough opponent next week as the Blessed Sacrament Huguenot Knights will host Broadwater Academy in their official 2019 season opener on Friday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.
"We've just got to pick it up and get better next game," Brock said.