Davie survives wild season opener

Published 10:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

Davie was dominating the first quarter and sending a loud message in Friday’s season opener at Page. And then the Pirates were dominating and they were going to win going away.

And then the War Eagles played as if lives were on the line, scoring 23 points in the final 9:35 to win 39-29. It was as epic as it gets in an August nonconference game.

Cooper Wall scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:12 remaining on the best bubble screen you’ve ever seen, Broc Barnette blocked a punt 68 seconds later, and Peyton Hampton nailed it down with a TD run with 2:23 to go.

“(Spencer Wilson, who sat out with an injury) said at halftime: ‘This is like a street fight,’” coach DeVore Holman said. “We won the first quarter of the fight. They won the second-quarter fight, and they got the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, though, our kids fought. They fought because we believe in fighting until the bitter end.”

About those wild mood swings: Davie led 16-0 after the first quarter. Page scored 29 unanswered points in the second and third quarters, including three TDs in less than six minutes. But Davie answered with a one-for-the-books rally against the defending 4AA runner-up.

“I feel like last year that wouldn’t have happened,” quarterback Chris Reynolds said after Davie avenged last year’s 53-22 beating. “We’ve got a special group this year. We’re all on a mission. I’m so excited. It’s going to be a special year.”

Wall didn’t live up to the hype of his junior season. He blew up the hype, making 11 catches for 235 yards and two TDs. That’s the second-most receiving yards in a game in Davie’s 61-year history (Ben Ellis had 253 vs. West Rowan in ‘14). Wall was one catch from the Ellis’ single-game record. It was Wall’s third career game with nine-plus catches. It was his sixth straight 100-yard game dating to ‘15, extending his record in that category.

Reynolds’ 294 passing yards and three TDs were an old hat for him. He had nights last year with 305 and 369 yards.

The War Eagles came out smoking, going 76 yards in six plays on the opening drive and scoring on Reynolds’ 40-yard completion to Wall, who broke free over the middle. After Reynolds and Wall hooked up for 44 yards, Reynolds found Beau Byerly alone in the back of the end zone. Page’s long snapper sailed the ball over his punter’s head, a 21-yard loss that resulted in a safety and gave Davie a 16-0 lead late in the first quarter.

“At that point, we had to keep our foot on the pedal,” Byerly said. “I guess somewhere along the line we let up a little bit, and you know you can’t do that, especially in a game as big as this.”

All of a sudden, Davie went silent on both sides of the ball. Page – which features a running back headed to Maryland (Javon Leake) and a Western Carolina commit at quarterback (Will Jones) – drove 65, 47 and 61 yards to grab a 22-16 halftime lead.

“They made a lot of adjustments,” Reynolds said. “They put two over Coop and then bailed over four people, so we had to run the ball. Getting behind the chains is what hurt us.”

It grew worse in the third quarter. Tarvris Martin returned the second-half kickoff 77 yards and Leake caught a fourth-and-11 swing pass and went 13 yards to extend Page’s lead to 29-13.

The teams traded turnovers in a two-play sequence early in the fourth. A pass glanced off Wall’s hand and was intercepted at the Page 2. Then Jones (286 passing yards) fumbled it right back to Davie, with lineman Jalen Redmond stripping the ball and recovering it. Davie failed to capitalize on golden field position, settling for Jared Griggs’ 25-yard field goal. It was better than nothing, but Davie still trailed by two scores (29-19) with only 9:35 to play.

There were difference-makers everywhere for Davie. Outside linebacker Barnette recovered a first-quarter fumble and returned it 30 yards. Three minutes later, linebacker Cody Hendrix broke up a fourth-down pass inside the Davie 5. In the third, Mitchell Ijames knocked away a pass near the end zone, and two plays later, linebacker James Boyle’s hit caused an incompletion on fourth-and-3 from Davie’s 17.

But no defensive play was bigger than the interception that came a minute after Griggs’ field goal. Playing center field on third-and-6 from the Page 29, sophomore safety Hite Merrifield lined up nine yards from the line of scrimmage. Nick Baker ran a slant. Merrifield sniffed it out, dashed in and picked it at the Page 35 with 8:40 left.

“I saw the quarterback looking at him the whole time, so I jumped it and it went right in my hands,” Merrifield said. “That was a huge adrenaline rush. Glad I could get it done for the team.”

“He read it and robbed it,” Holman said. “That was awesome.”

Reynolds saw nobody open, tucked the ball and raced 20 yards to the Page 15. Hampton churned nine yards to the 6. On third-and-goal from the 2, Reynolds kept it over left side and scored as Davie cut it to 29-26.

Then the defense came up with a critical stop. On second down, sophomore nose tackle Anthony Olmedo overwhelmed a Page guard and dropped Leake (100 yards on 20 carries) for a 3-yard loss. “He’s worked his tail off to be apart of that d-line,” Holman said. “He came up big at a time that we needed to get a stop.”

On third down, Davie’s war daddy, Boyle, blitzed around the edge, tore through Leake’s block attempt and sacked Jones from behind to force a Page punt.

“It’s hard to get pressure with just three (linemen),” Holman said. “We tried to put some heat on (Jones in the second half) and bring four from different parts of their slide protection.”

“We got down on ourselves a little bit, but coach (Tim) Devericks talked about facing adversity in meetings this week,” Boyle said. “So we bounced back great.”

Every Wall reception holds promise of something special, and the bubble screen on second-and-10 from the Davie 43 was beautiful and magnificent. Reynolds looked right before turning left. Receiver Ben Summers left his feet to take out a DB who was closing on Wall as he caught the ball two yards behind the line. Now Wall had linemen Bailey Sloan, Dex Bray, Zach Clubb and Ross Starnes downfield as body guards. Left tackle Luke Pratapas had stayed back to seal his area. At midfield, six red jerseys were circled around Wall. This could have been a 10-yard gain. DB Tremaine Cousar had a shot at Wall around the Page 47, but he hit another gear, broke through the arm tackle and was gone. Receiver Tyler Roberts raised his arms straight up when Wall reached the 20. It was a 57-yard TD with 4:12 to play. Griggs’ point-after kick made it 33-29.

“I can’t wait to see it on film because we had linemen getting out to spring it wide open,” Holman said. “And then Cooper cut on the jets and outran ‘em.”

“It looked like it had been open all night,” Wall said. “I’d been telling coach (Chris) Callison: ‘Hey, I think the bubble screen would work right here.’ Because I could see that they were bringing outside ‘backers down off the end and their safeties were bailing deep – so I knew it would be a two-on-two situation. I saw a crease and I hit that crease.”

“At the beginning (of the game), the read was all messed up,” Reynolds said. “I was confused at what I was looking at. But when coach (Todd Bumgarner) talked to me, I got refreshed and figured it out. We couldn’t get it working in practice, first of all. The tunnel wasn’t working. Next thing you know, we hop into a game and it opens like the Atlantic Ocean.”

“We were jumping up and down and screaming our heads off,” Merrifield said. “I’m not going to have a voice tomorrow.”

The defense fed off that incredible play. Boyle flushed Jones from the pocket and forced him to commit an intentional-grounding penalty that backed Page up 14 yards to its 22. It had to punt and Barnette added more disbelief for the home side by blocking it. He came off the right edge, jabbing with his right foot, cutting left, blowing through a Pirate and rejecting the punt at the 16-yard line. Matt Nesbit scooped the ball and returned it nine yards to the Page 10.

“(Martin) had been holding me the whole time I was going for it,” Barnette said. “I was like: ‘I guess I’ll just fake him out and go in. Once I did that, he was on his tails. That was a real game-ender for them.”

“We had just talked about how good he is at doing that,” Holman said. “And man, it happened.”

Hampton delivered the dagger on a 7-yard TD run in which he used a spin move to shake defenders.

“We had no momentum (going into the fourth),” Wall said. “After (Merrifield’s INT and Reynolds’ 2-yard TD), the momentum got back to our side and the adrenaline was pumping for everybody.”

Davie        16  0    0    23 – 39

Page       0    22  7    0   – 29

First Quarter

D – Wall 40 pass from Reynolds (Griggs kick), 9:24.

D – Byerly 12 pass from Reynolds (Griggs kick), 3:12.

D – safety (punt snap into end zone), :18.

Second Quarter

P – Polite 29 pass from Jones (Jones run), 9:57.

P – Leake 31 run (pass fail), 8:16.

P – Leake 20 run (Jones run), 4:33.

Third Quarter

P – Leake 13 pass from Jones (Murray kick), 10:18.

Fourth Quarter

D – Griggs 25 FG, 9:35.

D – Reynolds 2 run (Griggs kick), 6:53.

D – Wall 57 pass from Reynolds (Griggs kick), 4:12.

D – Hampton 7 run (kick fail), 2:23.




Rushing 33-79 29-69

Passing 294 286

C-A-I 20-41-2 19-42-1

Punts 6-26 2-27

F-L 0-0 2-2

Penalties 9-96 12-101



RUSHING – Hampton 17-60, Shepherd 5-16, Cranfill 3-9, Reynolds 8-(-6)

PASSING – Reynolds 20-41-2-294

RECEIVING – Wall 11-235, Roberts 4-25, Hampton 2-19, Byerly 2-11, Summers 1-4


RUSHING – Leake 20-100, Paige 1-2, Jones 6-(-3), team 2-(-30)

PASSING – Jones 19-42-1-286

RECEIVING – Polite 6-96, Leake 6-69, N. Alston 4-95, A. Alston 3-26