Eagles outlast Statesmen

Published 6:25 am Saturday, September 23, 2017

Prince Edward County High School’s varsity football team returned to the win column Friday night in another chapter of a recent series with Randolph-Henry High School that has been remarkably high-scoring on both sides.

In 2015, Randolph-Henry won 56-46, the Eagles responded with a 45-40 win last year, and they followed that up with a 55-40 victory Friday in Charlotte Court House during homecoming for the Statesmen.

The first quarter set the tone for the night, with Prince Edward holding a 21-12 lead after the first 12 minutes of play.

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Eagles Head Coach James Ford was pleased to see his team’s performance on offense, particularly after it struggled to score last week in a 14-13 home loss to Bluestone High School — Prince Edward’s first defeat this season.

“We went to work and put in some wrinkles, and our guys came out and executed,” Ford said. “We came out and we threw the ball very well, which we haven’t been able to do the last couple of weeks, and Zion (Lewis) really, really completed his passes to receivers.”

Lewis, a senior, was 11-for-16 for 283 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

“Usually we depended on Khalil (Smith) to be our guy, but hey, all the other receivers got involved this week, and it was a great effort,” Ford said. “(The) o-line blocked. It was a great team effort, offensively.”

In the first quarter, Eagles junior Rah’Quan Payne caught a 72-yard touchdown pass, and junior Tajh White hauled in a 66-yard scoring reception.

Lewis also scored on a 70-yard run. He finished the night with six carries for 147 yards and a score.

“Defensively, … we forced turnovers and made the stops when we had to, and … we came out with the win,” Ford said.

Seven seconds into the second quarter, Lewis and Payne connected for a 20-yard touchdown pass, helping make the score 28-12.

A little more than two minutes later, Prince Edward struck again when Lewis found senior Aneal Walker for a 59-yard touchdown pass. The extra point from senior Chaney Sheehan pushed the Eagles’ lead to 35-12.

Then the Statesmen responded, returning the ensuing kickoff to the Prince Edward 35-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, they scored on a fullback run to make the scoreboard read 35-18 with nine minutes and 13 seconds still to play in the first half.

Walker returned the next kickoff to the Randolph-Henry 30-yard line, and shortly thereafter, Lewis completed a 15-yard scoring pass to Payne to help make it 42-18 with 6:56 remaining.

The Statesmen responded with a productive drive capped by a 26-yard touchdown run, and the score was 42-26 after a successful run for a two-point conversion with 1:06 on the clock.

Prince Edward wasn’t ready to break for halftime yet, though, as the Eagles drove down, and junior Kahare Sutton reached the end zone on a patient three-yard run to help make the score 49-26 at the conclusion of the first half.

To open the second half, Randolph-Henry put together a promising drive, but it ended with a turnover when the Statesmen fumbled and Prince Edward recovered.

Long runs by Lewis helped put the Eagles on the doorstep of another score, but then an interception gave the ball back to Randolph-Henry on its own five-yard line.

The Statesmen used a big pass play and some power running to setup to a five-yard touchdown run, creating a score of 49-32 with 1:55 left in the third quarter.

The scoreboard read 55-32 after Eagles junior Jarrell Robinson broke through for a 56-yard touchdown run with 1:12 to go.

Randolph-Henry returned the ensuing kickoff to the Prince Edward 10-yard line. With 22 seconds remaining until the fourth quarter, the Statesmen found the end zone on a four-yard run, and they ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 55-40.

The Statesmen recovered a Prince Edward fumble just before the start of the fourth quarter, but they ended up turning the ball over on downs with 10:18 left in the game.

The Eagles were unable to respond offensively and punted. Randolph-Henry drove the ball to the Prince Edward five-yard line, but then a bad snap led to a turnover, with the Eagles recovering the ball at their own 20.

They punted the ball back with just under two minutes to play on a strong kick, and they were able to keep the Statesmen from cutting into their 15-point lead.

For the game, Payne recorded six catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns. White had three catches for 75 yards and a score and Walker had a 60-yard touchdown catch, plus four kickoff returns for 73 yards.

Junior J’Sean Dupuy finished the night with 15 carries for 143 yards, and Robinson had seven rushes for 75 yards and a score. Junior Rahme Marshall was sidelined with an injury.

On defense, Dupuy led the team with 15 total tackles, including nine solo tackles. He had one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Junior James Morgan had 14 total tackles, three solo, and White had 10 tackles, eight solo, one for loss and one pass defended.

Prince Edward (4-1) has a bye next week, and its focus will be to get healthy.

“I’m going to emphasize tackling, of course, and back to fundamentals, offensively and defensively, throwing, catching, all that stuff, but basically just getting healthy,” Ford said.

White, who is a defensive leader on the team as well as a receiver, went down with an ankle injury late in the game, but Ford said he should be OK.

“We’re halfway done with our season,” the coach said. “We’re 4-1. I’m excited that we’re 4-1, and now we need to get ready for the second half of our season. Luckily we’ve got a week to get ourselves back to full strength.”