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September 21, 2013
Dynamic Duo Delivers for Grizzlies: It was 'Red Out,' night at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake on Friday when the host Grizzlies welcomed in visiting King's Fork. The Bulldogs upset Grassfield a season ago to knock them from the ranks of the unbeaten, and with 13 minutes remaining in the Southeastern District tilt this year, it appeared the outcome would be the same again.
Thanks to a couple of enormous special teams plays, Grassfield turned a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter into a memorable 35-28 comeback win over the Suffolk school, improving the Grizzlies' record to 3-0 on the campaign.
"Last year, this team came in here and beat us on our Homecoming. It hurt me so bad and I wasn't letting that happen this year," remarked Grassfield's Vincent Lowe, part of a 1-2 playmaking punch for the Grizz alongside fellow senior speedster Isaiah Harper that proved to be the catalyst in their rally. "Any second the game can turn around and we showed that tonight."
Trailing King's Fork 6-0 late in the second quarter, Grassfield got on the board with 3:41 before half-time on Lowe's 71-yard touchdown run, followed by an extra point that would put them ahead by one, but only briefly. The Bulldogs answered with a touchdown and two-point conversion to claim a 14-7 led going to the break.
Grassfield opened the second half with a nine-play, 60-yard scoring drive in 4:24, capped on Harper's 12-yard touchdown run to knot the score at 14-all. King's Fork re-gained control on the very next series, though. The Bulldogs would be backed up five yards on a penalty on third down, but they managed to silence the home fans with a 56-yard touchdown pass from senior Uriah Adams to junior Ty'Quan Weston.
Adams' 20-yard touchdown run gave King's Fork a 28-14 advantage with only 1:46 left in the third quarter, and Grassfield was definitely in the danger zone until Harper, an Old Dominion commit, bailed them out of a jam.
Slipping away from several defenders, Harper broke free for a 91-yard kickoff return that ignited a 21-point burst in a span of 7:34 to take Grassfield from down double-digits to up seven. Shortly thereafter, the duo of Lowe and Harper teamed up for a touchdown when Lowe blocked a punt, Harper scooped it up at the five-yard line and ran it in for his third score of the evening.
"My body went numb and I couldn't believe I did that. I was really excited," said Lowe of his block. "I feel like we wait for the game to develop, which we've got to stop doing. It was a great ballgame and we gave the fans what they came to see."
Lowe made an interception on third down on the next series, and following by first down runs from the tandem of Harper and Lowe, Grassfield scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 14-yard touchdown pass by Brett Smith to Beltran Skinner with 6:13 left to play. King's Fork saw its final drive fizzle out just inside the 45-yard line of the Grizzlies.
"I think the kick returned sparked it, and then the punt was icing on the cake. That was it after that," believed Harper. "On the return, I thought I saw a hole and it closed, and then after that I just took some shots, spun around, it opened and I used my speed."
As they have often done at in their time at Grassfield, Harper and Lowe energized the home fans with exciting, game-changing plays.
"I thought the big play was the kickoff return by Isaiah, and then after that I thought our crowd and our fans really got into it. I can't emphasize enough our crowd. It made a big difference. Once that momentum started to swing, our young kids really started to believe in themselves and play with emotion. I thought that was huge for us and we never looked back," stated Grassfield Head Football Coach Martin Asprey afterwards.
"This was a great High School Football game tonight. I think people come to Grassfield and see a great atmosphere. I'm very proud to be a Head Football Coach in this Grassfield community."
Insert Skinner, who was in on 11 total tackles, nine of the solo variety. His stop on third down with the Grizzlies trailing 28-21 early in the fourth quarter was huge in setting up the punt block.
"I'm very proud of Beltran. He's trying to fill the void of Marcus Mitchell. That's a tough void," Asprey pointed out. "Our other linebacker, Chris Newell, played well tonight. We have some sophomores with Grant Holloway and Noah [Tieskoetter] back there. We've just got to keep growing and getting better every week."
Although it came in a losing cause, Wethington ran for 241 yards and a touchdown on 27 attempts. He had 11 runs of 10 yards or more, eight in the first half when he rolled up 158 yards on 16 touches.
"He's a stud," said Asprey of Wethington, a two-sport standout that also excels in basketball. "That's a good football team and we knew if we let those horses run we were going to be in trouble."
By displaying a blend of speed, strength and moves in space, Wethington gave Grassfield's defense problems all night long. The guy nicknamed 'Debo,' made a lasting impression on the Grizzlies, even drawing praise from one of the better running backs in the state in the Class of 2014.
"He's a great athlete and still has a couple more years here in the district. He's going to be one of the best if not the best back in the 757 I believe before he's done," believes Harper.
To be 3-0 after a stretch where they beat a team that they lost to a year ago and won convincingly over another that they only defeated by a point in 2012 is quite encouraging for the Grizzlies' players and coaches at this point. Their schedule will only get tougher when they face the likes of Western Branch and Oscar Smith in October on their march to the 6A postseason.
"When you're replacing Paris Smith and some of the kids we had last year, we lost a lot of production. It's exciting for us, and I keep telling them you've just got to keep playing," commented Asprey.
"We'll worry about those other teams later. That's for people who read the paper the next morning, criticize coaches or 'oh this guy has 25 D-1 football players.'"
Grassfield's seniors have plenty more important games that await them, both home and away. Nonetheless, this latest win will be one that they will certainly reflect on when their careers are over.
"It was unbelievable," Harper added. "We were down, but we weren't out, did what we were supposed to do in the second half, and it really shows our character as a team and how we work together to get the W."
Grizzlies 35: (3-0 Overall)
Fork Bulldogs 28: (2-1 Overall)
Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him every Saturday at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.