Fake punt gives Mid­loth­ian needed mo­men­tum surge

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SPORTS - BY WELDON BRAD­SHAW

Quar­ter­back Bren­don Clark of Manch­ester (7-0), ranked sec­ond in The T-D Top 10, cuts through the de­fense of fifth-ranked L.C. Bird (6-1) dur­ing the Lancers’ 55-7 vic­tory at Manch­ester. Clark threw for 196 yards and three touch­downs as the Lancers rolled up 490 yards of of­fense while hold­ing Skyhawks run­ning back Tre Ma­son, who en­tered the game av­er­ag­ing 211.2 rush­ing yards, to 72 yards (De­tails, Page D6).

They couldn’t catch a break.

Third-down con­ver­sions? Weren’t hap­pen­ing.

Field po­si­tion? Mis­er­able.

Luck? None.

So how did the Mid­loth­ian Tro­jans rally from a two-touch­down deficit Fri­day to de­feat Clover Hill 15-12 on the road?

“Re­solve,” Mid­loth­ian coach Matt Hutch­ings said. “It’s funny. The pregame speech was about re­solve: what we’ve built and what we’ve done. I couldn’t imag­ine it any bet­ter.”

The Cava­liers (4-4) built a 12-0 lead on two touch­down runs by Ken­dall Cross, one from 31 yards on the first play of the sec­ond quar­ter and the other from 4 yards to end a four­play, 44-yard drive at 7:27 of the third.

While the home team was cruis­ing, the Tro­jans (4-3) were strug­gling might­ily.

In the first half, Clover Hill lim­ited them to 87 yards pass­ing, mi­nus19 rush­ing, and two first downs.

Their first three drives of the sec­ond half be­gan on their 10 (af­ter Tyler Moore’s fum­ble re­cov­ery), their 5 (af­ter a deftly placed kick­off by Cross), and their 4 (af­ter an un­re­turn­able 39-yard punt by Cross).

When all seemed lost, though, on this cool, clear night, the vis­it­ing Tro­jans (4-3) fi­nally made their own break.

With Mid­loth­ian aligned in punt for­ma­tion on fourth-and-18 on their

49, Will Pomeroy took the short snap and con­nected with Bray­den Staib for a 21-yard gain.

Af­ter back-to-back penal­ties moved the ball to the 12, wide­out Neil Rich­burg took a Chris­tian Cham­bers pass to the 1, and at 1:16 of the third pe­riod, Tyler Pace fol­lowed his block­ing off the right side into the end zone.

Aaron Vardell’s PAT cut Clover Hill’s lead to 12-7.

“Coach told us be­fore the game, at half­time, and dur­ing time­outs, it’s all about re­solve, re­solve, re­solve,” said Rich­burg, a 6-0, 160-pound se­nior. “It was keep be­liev­ing, keep be­liev­ing, keep push­ing.”

As the Tro­jans gained mo­men­tum, their de­fense in­ten­si­fied its al­ready staunch ef­fort against Clover Hill’s for­mi­da­ble run­ning game, which amassed 293 yards on 54 snaps.

Their sec­ond scor­ing drive be­gan at their 27 af­ter they stopped the home team three-and-out.

On the first play, Cham­bers sprinted 30 yards to the Cava­liers’ 43. Seven plays later, he hit Rich­burg with a 22-yard TD pass 2:31 from the end, then con­nected with Pace for the 2-point con­ver­sion.

“We were run­ning a Zpost,” Rich­burg said of his touch­down re­cep­tion. “I told my quar­ter­back Chris­tian to just put it on me and I’d score. The de­fender pressed up on me. Once I got by him, I just gave him a step and cut in­side.”

Cham­bers, a 5-10, 170pound ju­nior, com­pleted 15 of 33 passes for 182 yards de­spite re­lent­less pres­sure from the Cava­liers’ de­fense.

“You have to have men­tal tough­ness,” he said. “They were send­ing the house on us, and I had to make bet­ter reads. That’s hope­fully what I did in the sec­ond half.

“There re­ally wasn’t any doubt. We know we’re tal­ented. We knew we had to ex­e­cute.”

Clover Hill ran 68 plays for 365 yards. Mid­loth­ian ran 56 for 215, in­clud­ing only 12 on the ground.

On the short end of the stat sheet and be­hind on the score­board much of the night, the Tro­jans per­se­vered.

“It’s just love for the game,” said Staib, a se­nior linebacker in the Tro­jans’ de­fense that forced four turnovers. “You’re out there with your broth­ers, play­ing foot­ball. You’re tired. You’re beat down, es­pe­cially when any play can change the course of the game.

“This [win­ning] is amaz­ing. That’s the re­silience of our team. We don’t give up.”



Mid­loth­ian’s Neil Rich­burg in­ter­cepts a pass in­tended for Clover Hill’s Jaden John­son in in the first half. On of­fense, Rich­burg fin­ished with seven catches for 98 yards.

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