Daily Press (Sunday)

Young Tigers can’t keep up with Springers

Top seed controls possession in 2nd half to move on

- By Jami Frankenber­ry Staff writer

HIGHLAND SPRINGS — Eric Byrd rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns and helped Highland Springs play keepaway in the fourth quarter of a 28-7 victory over Oscar Smith in a Class 6 Region A semifinal Friday night.

The top-seeded Springers (11-1) won their ninth straight game since a loss to Maury and earned a spot in the region championsh­ip game at home at 1:30 p.m. on Friday — the day after Thanksgivi­ng — against Manchester.

Highland Springs is playing its first season in Class 6 after winning five state titles in Class 5.

The Springers on Friday led 14-7 at halftime after Byrd’s 31-yard TD run and Khristian Martin’s 1-yard plunge. Highland Springs then owned the ball in the third and fourth quarters, running 20 more plays (38-18) than the Tigers.

The Springers were especially stingy in the fourth period, burning more than 10 minutes of the 12-minute quarter on two possession­s. Oscar Smith (8-4) had one possession for 1:58 before regaining the ball with 24.3 seconds left and trailing 28-7.

Highland Springs converted three third downs and a fourth down in the fourth quarter to keep the ball. Only four of the Springers’ 38 plays after halftime were passes.

“They dominated time of possession,” Tigers coach Chris Scott said. “They held onto the ball there in the second half, and we just couldn’t make the thirddown and fourth-down plays. That was pretty much the difference in the game.”

Byrd scored on a 4-yard TD run midway through the third quarter, and Marreyon Harvey added a 29-yard score in the final minute.

Oscar Smith’s first possession of the second half lasted only two plays — a 4-yard run and an intercepti­on. The Tigers trailed 21-7 when they drove to the 35-yard line and failed on fourth-and-3 with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter.

Brandon Nesbit led the Tigers with 86 yards on 20 carries and scored on an 8-yard run in the second quarter.

Nesbit, a junior, is part of a large contingent of players expected to return next season for Oscar Smith. Quarterbac­k Lonnie Andrews III (14-of-27 passing, 186 yards) is a freshman, leading receiver Travis Johnson is a sophomore and the Tigers started only two seniors on the offensive line.

“We’re extremely young across the board,” Scott said. “This is a team that’s primed and ready to get us back to the state championsh­ips, where we’re accustomed to being.”

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