Eagles Not Able To Hold Onto Lead In Season Finale

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Prince Edward County High School football team came as close to victory as it has since defeating Cumberland back on the second week of the season.

The Eagles were a couple of yards off. They led early in their Senior Night home game against Southampton, but allowed a game-tying touchdown in the final minute and came up short on a two-point conversion in overtime to lose 28-26.

“Yeah, that one was frustrating,” said PECHS head coach James Ford, who just completed his second season of the team in full rebuilding mode. “It was a different kind of frustrating. We started off well, but were unable to hold on toward the end.”

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The Eagles built a 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 20-6 halftime advantage.

The Eagles nursed that lead into the fourth quarter, before giving it up on a game-tying run with 52.5 seconds left. Marquis Fitzgerald stopped the two-point conversion to force overtime.

After Southampton took a 28-20 lead on a two-yard run and two point conversion by Cecil Lowe, the standout receiver came down with a jump ball in the back of the end zone to pull the Eagles back to within two. Unfortunately for PE, a missed assignment led to the failed two-point conversion, and Southampton escaped with the narrow victory.

“Fitzgerald did what he does on that touchdown. He went up between a couple of receivers to snag that ball and put us in position to tie the game. We left something open on that last play, and they did a good job of sniffing out the two point attempt.”

For the first time since the Cumberland game in late August, Prince Edward was able to get off to a quick start.

Quarterback Cleon Watkins completed an 80-yard drive with a 47-yard pass to Fitzgerald to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.

Southampton pulled to within a point on a 12-yard run by Timothy Mason, but the two-point try was halted by PE senior Isaiah Davis.

It took only 14 seconds for the Eagles to push back ahead. Fitzgerald returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 14-6 lead. Late in the half, Prince Edward blocked a Southampton punt and returned it to the Indians' five-yard-line. They later scored on a five-yard run by Davon Adams.

“We really had a good rhythm to start the game. We were getting something out of our offense. Things were going well. After the half. I don't know. Southampton didn't make any adjustments. They just wore us down, and we helped them out with some mistakes of our own.”

PE maintained its 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter. A breakdown on special teams led to a blocked punt that was recovered by Southampton on the PE 10-yard-line. On the next play, Cecil Lowe ran the ball in to pull the Indians back to within a score. His two-point conversion cut PE's lead to six points, leading into the final drive and overtime period.

Prince Edward was led offensively by Fitzgerald, who had three receptions for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Watkins completed six of 12 passes for 76 yards and the two touchdowns. Adams rushed five times for 30 yards and had a touchdown and a fumble.

Damien Mickey led the Eagles defensively with nine tackles (eight solo) and a sack. Al Watkins and CJ McKay had seven tackles apiece, while Adams had six stops and two forced fumbles. Denylo Branch had five tackles and a fumble recovery that was returned for a 70-yard touchdown that was called back due to a block in the back penalty.

“We came close, but in the end we made one mistake too many.”

Though it was gong to be a tough year for the PECHS football program, the Eagles end the season with a 1-9 record – which severely strains that thought about a victory over the rival wipes out the rest of the season.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Ford. “Nobody is going to do it for us. It's all up to us to get better.”

The PECHS junior varsity team completed a 7-3 record, so help is on the way. Whether or not that translates to varsity is a different story.

“It's faster on the varsity. You can't beat your opponent just on athletic ability, but this is a team that has been successful in middle school and now as JV players. Our coaches have done a good job of teaching them the game. Things are looking up, but as we move into the James River District, things are not going to get easier. In fact, it's about to get a lot tougher. Buckingham, Goochland and Central are not going to get weaker. We're about to get into the SEC of Group A football. Hopefully, we will put the work in that we need to do in order to compete with those top teams, but depends on how we treat the offseason.”