Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

Team South's Comeback Falls Short In Big River Rivalry
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 21, 2013, 17:18

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
ASHLAND As Team North's Nathaniel Roscoe rushed in a touchdown from seven yards out, the Hermitage running back seemed to clinch the victory, snatching a one-point lead over Team South.

Yet, the Billy Mills' led team would not back-down. They looked up to the scoreboard and saw 1:16 remained, just enough time to utilize the weapons at his disposal during the first annual Big River Rivalry Game.

After a short kick-off pitted the South team on their own 30-yard line, Thomas Dale's Trevor Luke completed a 62-yard catch and run to Justin Duhart, bringing the South to the 13-yard line with under a minute remaining.

Then, Luke was replaced by Hopewell's Tabyus Taylor as he ran the keeper play up the middle for an 11-yard gain, putting the South at the two-yard line with 18 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Luke went under center and fired a pass which flew over the reach of Dinwiddie's Wesly Reed.

Facing a 4th and 2 with 13 seconds remaining, Mills elected to attempt a field goal try, sending Midlothian's Jay Klein on the field. As the ball was snapped, immediate pressure from the North flooded the backfield with John Marshall's Cedric Bridges blocking the kick, clinching a stirring 35-34 victory for Team North at Randolph-Macon College in front of 2,952 spectators.

"It was great, but it was a challenge too because they had so many good athletes over there too," Mills said after the All-Star game loss. "To have them all mesh together after just one week of practice was great."

And for Team South, the chemistry and mentality exhibited along the sidelines seemed to fuel the team from the opening stages of the game.

After falling behind 14-0, it would be easy for a team filled with players who have not played with each other for more than a week to quit and start playing for their own individual statistics. Yet, Team South fought back with a lengthy drive fueled by 38 yards of passing from Taylor, culminating in a field goal with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.

Then, the South's defense stiffened, forcing a 3rd and 23 pass which was intercepted by Manchester's George Parker. On the next play from scrimmage, Taylor found Petersburg's Markice Street for a 63-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

Team South would continue their offensive explosion when Luke found Duhart for a 53-yard strike, extending a 16-0 run. It was enough to show Mills all he needed to see about the mentality of the players he was coaching.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

"We got some great playmakers over here," Mills said of his team. "We have (Rasheed) Worsham, (Earl) Hughes, Sadarius Williams. We had so many guys who could make plays. They were great competitors with great confidence and they were not fazed at all. They knew they could still get it done."

A main reason they remained in the game, even with Team North quarterback D.J. Johnson completing 10-of-17 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, was Team South's MVP Tabyus Taylor.

His final numbers showed the versatility he had this season for Hopewell and what he will bring to Virginia Tech next Fall, completing 9-of-16 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while also hauling in a 21-yard receiving touchdown.

For Taylor, it was all about getting his team back into the game.

"Once we were down 14-0, especially coming from me, we've been down the whole season," Taylor said after the game. "I wasn't worrying about. I kept my team up and we got back into the game."

Yet, Taylor also received big-time help from Manchester's 6-foot-3 wide receiver. Duhart hauled in just four catches, but used his physicality to overpower the North's corners to gain 141 yards and two touchdowns.

However, he said even he was surprised his catch and run for 62 yards worked because during the week of practices, it had not found the connection.

"Some of the plays didn't look as good in practice as they did today," Duhart said after his performance. "Like the first touchdown I had, that play hadn't worked all week, but it worked all of a sudden."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

But it wasn't just the offensive players who stole the show.

Even in a game with no blitzing, Hopewell's Tyler Smith found his way into the backfield on numerous occassions, none more important than in the third quarter with his team down by a touchdown.

Smith sacked Benedictine quarterback Bryce Hamilton to force a third-down attempt, then sacked him again, forcing a fumble and recovering it for the South.

"I was glad to be out there contributing to my team," Smith said modestly. "It didn't go the way we wanted it too, but I was glad to be a big contributor to the effort."

Yet, while Team South lost a nail-biter, the back-and-fourth affair highlighted the type of talent located in the area, led by two certain Hopewell players fans are sure to miss next season.

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