by Brian Hoffman
The Glenvar High football season ended once again with a loss to Appomattox, and this one’s going to linger. The visiting Raiders took a 38-34 win at Highlander Stadium last Friday in a game that could have gone either way.
It could have gone either way, but for the sixth year in a row it went in favor of Appomattox. Friday’s game marked the sixth straight year the Raiders have ended Glenvar’s season, including three times in the Region 2C championship gqame and three times at Highlander Stadium.
“To beat them we have to play an error free game, and we didn’t do that,” said Glenvar coach Kevin Clifford. “I hurt for our seniors to be so close and not win the game.”
This one was back and forth all night long with three ties and eight lead changes. It pretty much came down to who had the ball last, and the Raiders picked off a pass with time running out to make that claim.
Appomattox scored first on a 31 yard field goal but Glenvar’s Tyler Pierce kicked the first of his four field goals, also from 31 yards, and the game was tied at 3-3 after one quarter.
Glenvar was driving early in the second quarter before a long pass intended for Jackson Swanson was intercepted inside the Raider five. The GHS defense boxed up the run on first down, but on the next play speedy Virginia Tech recruit Jonathan Pennix popped through the line and found some green, sprinting for a killer 99 yard touchdown run as Appomattox took a 10-3 lead with 9:25 remaining in the half.
That lead lasted for all of 15 seconds, as Swanson took the ensuing kickoff and broke free for a 90 yard TD return to answer the Raiders. Glenvar then held and took the lead for the first time in the game when Shane Gibson ran off the left side for a 23 yard TD. That followed a 20 yard pass from Brody Dawyot to Reed Hutchison and Glenvar had a 17-10 lead with 3:20 until intermission.
That didn’t do it for the half, not by a long shot. The Raiders answered with a 14 yard TD pass to Pennix with 1:10 on the clock to tie the game, then Pierce kicked a 36 yard field goal on the last play of the half and Glenvar went into the locker room with a 20-17 lead.
Glenvar got the ball first to start the second half and Pierce kicked his third field goal, this time from 36 yards out, to increase Glenvar’s lad to 23-17. Pennix then scored two minutes later on a 22 yard run and Appomattox was back on top at 24-23 with 8:33 still to go in the quarter. Pierce’s fourth field, from 22 yards away, swung the lead back to the Highlanders at 26-24 and that’s how it stood after three quarters.
Appomattox put together a good drive early in the fourth quarter but were faced with a fourth and one at the Glenvar eight yard line. A “rugby-like scrum” ensued and the Raiders were able to push the pile just enough for a first down, followed by a seven yard TD run by Pennix. That put Appomattox back on top at 31-26 with 9:35 to go in a totally entertaining ballgame.
Not to be denied, Glenvar fired right back. The Highlanders drove to the 14 where Dawyot hit Gabe Ford with a TD pass, and then found Ford again for a two-point conversion to give Glenvar a 34-31 lead with 7:02 to go.
The eighth and final lead change came with just under four minutes remaining. Pennix scored his fifth touchdown of the game on a three yard run and the extra point was a big one, giving the Raiders a four point lead at 38-34 and eliminating a possible game-tying field goal.
Still, the Highlanders would have three more chances. They drove into Raider territory where Ford fumbled on the 32 after catching a pass from Dawyot. He was trying to pick up extra yards when the ball popped loose and Appomattox recovered with 1:31 on the clock.
“Gabe was trying to pick up yards and they stripped it,” said Clifford. “It was a good effort by them.”
Glenvar was able to force a three and out, and by using their timeouts there was still just under a minute remaining when Appomattox was forced to punt. Swanson fielded the punt, broke a tackle as he headed to his right, then raced down the sideline in front of the Glenvar bench for what appeared to be a stunning, game-winning 75 yard touchdown. However, a flag was thrown behind the play and Glenvar was called for a block in the back, negating the score.
“It was an iffy call,” said a distraught Clifford. “It was a ticky-tack hit to the shoulder that had no effect on the play. But we still had the ball.”
Glenvar’s final hope for a miracle wasn’t answered. They moved to the Raider 29 with 17 seconds on the clock but on third and 10 Dawyot scrambled away from pressure and tried to make something happen. Pennix, of all people, intercepted his pass on the sideline and ran out the clock, setting off a wild celebration on the Appomattox side and despair among the green and gold.
Dawyot finished 19 for 30 passing for 203 yards and he ran for 54 yards on 16 carries. Gibson had 102 yards rushing on 15 tries and Elijah Carter had 32 yards on six carries.
Swanson had six receptions for 76 yards while Ford caught five balls for 58. Hutchison had five catches for 45 yards and Nick Woodson had three for 48.
On defense Ben Holiday led with 12 tackles. Jack Camper had 11, Nate Johnson had seven and Carter had six, and both Johnson and Carter had sacks.
The big stat of the game was Pennix, who rushed for 191 yards and four touchdowns in addition to catching a touchdown pass and sealing the game with an interception. He had missed games with an injury during the season but looked healthy Friday night.
“They were able to put him in one-on-one situations and we couldn’t stop him, that’s why he’s going to Tech,” said Clifford. “If he wasn’t healthy against us we would have won by two touchdowns.”
With the loss Glenvar ended the season at 9-4. After losing their first two games they won nine of the next 10 despite battling a rash of injuries for much of the season. It was the 12th straight playoff appearance for the Highlanders but for the last six years the Raiders have been a thorn in their side.
“If they weren’t in our region we would have won the region five or six times,” said Clifford. “But I’m proud of the way our kids fought and there’s only six teams in the state that go away happy.”
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