Time now for another edition of "It Wasn't Supposed To Be This Way".
As surprising as Patrick Henry's rout of Douglas Freeman was in week five, it does not come close in comparison to the events of week six in Ashland.
John Marshall came to town for a classic "Tweener" game on the schedule. You know, the game that comes nestled in-between two big games on the docket; the one that, on paper, you know you shouldn't have to worry too much about. After the Freeman win, you know talk around the Center of the Universe began shifting to the Deep Run showdown in week seven.
But first there was this little matter of playing John Marshall. As you've heard it all before-----this is why they play the game.
Fueled by a lights out performance by quarterback Arnold Harris, the Justices stunned Patrick Henry 27-21, and left the home bleachers in Ashland in a silence not experienced in nearly 20 years.
First the highlights, then my analysis.
John Marshall wastes no time, scoring on a 2nd and 19 pass to Maurice Johnson; a 15 yard out to the right where Johnson shuffled by his defender, shook off a second one, and barely beat a third into the end zone. The 65 yard pitch-n'-catch gave JM the six point lead just 1:39 into the game.
Response? How about Jamison Kenny received the kickoff at the 15, receiving the benefit of a classic line of blockers, and going right up the middle, then to the right side, practically untouched, for an 85 yard TD return, the first kickoff or punt return of the season for the Patriots. Hayden Dyer's point after gives PH the 7-6 lead.
Fans were still coming into the stadium and had missed 13 points. The rest of the first quarter was more settled, save a huge drive by JM that ended thanks to Clay Schools' interception at the PH 5 with 3:57 to go, denying the early go-ahead points for Marshall.
Harris threw for 105 yards and a touchdown on his first three completions in the first quarter, but later threw a second interception, and after one period it stood 7-6, PH. Harris proceeded to lead his offense back down the field in the second, getting into the end zone with an eight-yard strike to Randall Braxton with 7:43 left until halftime. JM went for two and, on a designed play, Harris went for Charles Shelton, who fully extended to bobble, then catch the ball before he smacked hard into the end zone turf on the left side. That athleticism earned JM the 14-7 lead.
PH promptly returned serve on the scoreboard, ending a TD drive on a 13 yard pass from Brandon Cash to Adrian Cavanaugh. Then, Harris throws a third interception, this time to Raquis Morris, playing a "center field" position around the PH 40, with 2:08 to go before half, but the Patriots couldn't take advantage, and we arrived at the half at 14-14.
John Marshall had outgained Patrick Henry in the first half 215-58, yet thanks to one sustained drive and the Kenny kickoff return, the score was even. If PH could come back settled, could it take control?
Bad news came to the faithful even before PH received the opening kickoff when Jamison Kenny came back out sans shoulder pads. An injury had ended his evening early. But undaunted, PH chewed up nearly five minutes of clock and scored on a two yard run by Cash, and the Patriots had seemingly taken some control at 21-14.
We noted on the halftime show on the radio that the best defense for Patrick Henry in the second half would be to keep JM quarterback Arnold Harris off the field. This would prove to be oh so true.
JM's first possession after halftime ended in disaster, fumbling the ball away at the line of scrimmage. But, in a sign that it was not to be their night, PH committed an uncharacteristic turnover when Cash's pitch back to Brandon Wong, now in the backfield replacing the injured Kenny, went five yards behind Wong, setting off a monster scramble for the ball. The more players involved, the further the ball got knocked down the JM side of the field until, finally, the Justices recovered at the PH 24.
Marshall promptly seizes on the gift, with Harris throwing towards an intended receiver from 25 yards out. Adrian Cavanaugh tipped the ball, only for the ball to come down where Quante Cooley of Marshall was, as well as his defender. The bigger, stronger Cooley ripped the ball away and gingerly entered the end zone for the tying score. Destiny seemed to reside on the visitors' side of the field. The extra point was good, tying the game at 21.
JM could have taken the lead on their next drive, but a touchdown pass to Cooley was called back due to penalty, and the 21-21 tie would remain on the scoreboard well into the 4th quarter.
Finally, the Justices would grab the lead for good with 6:11 to go, completing another impressive drive with an eight-yard TD run by Frank Bullock around right end. The PAT was no good, so PH could win the game with a touchdown and extra point. But in the last 6:11, the Pats couldn't find the end zone, their last drive beginning at their own 1 with a minute to go and no timeouts, thanks to a tremendous punt and special teams play by the Justices.
PH's final prayer was grounded when Brandon Cash was tackled around the 30 yard line, and the celebration began in Northside Richmond. For the first time since 1992, the Justices had come to Ashland and won.
This one left the players stunned, bitterly disappointed, and the fans in quiet disbelief. It also threw open the Division Five playoff floodgates.
In the end, Arnold Harris was 14 of 21 for 260 yards, with three TDs and three INTs. Quante Cooley caught five passes for 87 yards and the tying TD in the 3rd quarter.
Brandon Cash was 9 for 17 for 99 yards, one TD and one pick. He only gained 38 yards on the ground, as John Marshall's defense held PH to only 249 yards.
So were the Patriots caught looking ahead? Probably, to a point. But the biggest reason for this loss was that, simply, it was John Marshall's night. Their passing game could not be stopped when it needed to be, the third TD pass was tipped, yet caught anyway, and they caught a break not having to face Jamison Kenny in the second half.
Now the question is how the Patriots will respond when they have to go to Twin Hickory Friday night and battle the undefeated Deep Run Wildcats. We won't have to wait long to find out.
And you know we'll be there!! WHAN (1430), 705pm Friday night. Talk to ya then!
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