Page rally spoils debut at new stadium

Published 11:33 am Thursday, August 24, 2017

It will go down as one of the biggest what-might-have-beens in Davie history.

Davie’s football team had a 14-0 lead with under five minutes to play and coughed it up, losing 20-14 in overtime Friday to the visiting Page Pirates, who spoiled the first game at the new War Eagle Stadium seven miles from old campus. Page spoiled a magnificent defensive effort in Davie’s first outing under new coordinator David Hunt.

It was a brutally gut-wrenching, impossible-to-believe loss.

“That’s how the game of football goes,” Davie coach Tim Devericks said. “One play turned it around. Momentum is really big in high school, and that one play changed the momentum.”

When it was 14-0, Devericks summoned the hammer team with Davie facing fourth-and-2 at the Page 39 with five-plus minutes to go. At that pivotal moment,  Page fans were ready to order coffins for their boys. But the hammer did not work as Ben Summers, who entered quarterback for this play, was swarmed for no gain on a run to the left end.

From there, Page big-played Davie, scoring two touchdowns in 42 seconds to tie and clinching on the Pirates’ first play in OT.

“I was struggling at the end,” Page first-year coach Jared Rolfes told the Winston-Salem Journal. “I didn’t know how we were going to score twice in the last five minutes, but we did.”

If the War Eagles could have avoided the wretched ending, Cody Hendrix, De’maura “Mo Mo” Isaac and all the defenders would have been hailed as heroes. Starting quarterback Josh Hall and receivers Jack Reynolds and Evan Little would have been holding babies and taking selfies during postgame revelry.

The offense had a lot of players to replace and was surrounded by skepticism, but it showed a personality on Davie’s second possession – after defensive tackle Jalen Redmond recovered a fumble at the Page 29. On a third-down play from the 25, Hall lofted a corner-route spiral to the end zone. A savvy, scrappy freshman, Jack Reynolds, the younger brother of Chris Reynolds, caught it for a touchdown. It was barely believable that Hall’s second pass went to a freshman and resulted in six on the brand-new field. Another freshman, Guillermo “Willie” Moure, added the kick to make it 7-0 with 7:50 left in the first quarter.

“Pretty much the same play – drag corner – (that Beau Byerly made a living on in ‘16),” Devericks said. “We put a lot of pressure on Jack as a punt returner, kick returner and starting receiver. That’s the way the cards were dealt this time of year, but Jack is capable of handling that.”

Isaac and Hendrix nailed the Page punter on a fake punt late in the first quarter. Thomas Murray needed three yards and got one.

The defense was not pumped too much in preseason. It was as good as advertised all night.

“They answered it,” Devericks said. “In the first half we had horrible field position and they kept battling their butts off. I’m super proud of that unit. They played their hearts out, as well as everyone on the team.”

The Pirates – who went 0 for 12 on third downs, 0 for 5 on fourth and punted seven times – couldn’t pierce Davie’s defense with conventional running plays, so they tried reverses/end-arounds. It was going to be a 50-yard TD for Naim Bradsher, but two penalties worth 25 yards brought it back and kept Page off the board. Bradsher was disqualified after the play for unsportsmanlike conduct after diving into the end zone with no Davie defenders in sight.

Isaac broke up a fourth-down pass late in the first half, and Kinston Whitener, Hunter Meacham and Matthew King made crowd-pleasing plays in a three-play span early in the third when it was still 7-0.

Page intercepted a Summers pass but couldn’t cash in. For the longest time, it looked as if the backbone of Davie’s team – defense – was going to bludgeon the visitors to defeat in a massive stunner.

“Lights out,” Devericks said.  “Cody’s our captain. He told them although they may be bigger, faster and stronger (that we can win). Cody’s super proud of their fight and heart. (Isaac) had a great night (at cornerback). He has turned a corner maturity-wise. He has stepped up as a senior and has been real vocal. That’s not really his forte, but he’s been great at leading these young DBs.”

Davie fans on the packed home side were electrified a second time by the offense with 3:59 remaining in the third. Little, a sophomore who was previously known only as a new starter at receiver while the War Eagles wait for the return of Cooper Wall and Mason Wilson, gracefully introduced himself to the county when he ran a seam route on fourth-and-4. Hall hit him in the numbers for a 28-yard TD. Davie had the 14-0 lead against a vaunted defense from Greensboro.

“They took away a lot of our inside passing game with the way they were shifting linebackers,” Devericks said. “We knew the running back was catching the corner’s eye, and it caused (the DB) to freeze his feet for a second and Evan was able to get behind him.”

Big Ronald Wilson, the imposing defensive tackle, got his mitt on a third-and-11 pass as Hunt’s boys continued to frustrate Page. Meacham, the sophomore outside linebacker who looks like a future stalwart, disrupted a fourth-and-7 end-around run.

That set up the possession that ended with Davie’s hammer team inserted at the Page 39. When it was almost can’t-lose time for Davie, Page made all the key plays, rising from the dead and making sure the road team won the annual opener for the seventh straight year.

Page QB Javondre Paige, who had thrown for 41 yards on 20 attempts through 43 minutes, was flushed left and was running for his left. It seemed like an utter fluke when he found Nick Baker behind everybody for a 58-yard TD with 4:51 to go.

“A guy from the other side of the field scrambled all the way across the field and ended up behind us,” Devericks said. “The corner came up and said: ‘Coach, I locked on my man. I should have got the guy deep.’ I said: ‘There’s no way for you to see him coming from the other side of the field.’”

Two plays later, Hall fired a pass to Reynolds, who had position on his defender. But Alex Angus, who had several inches on the 5-7 receiver, went over Reynolds’ back to steal the ball. To make matters worse, he returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. Murray’s extra point banged off the right upright, the deflection going left and through to tie the game at 14 with 4:09 to go. Had it kicked right, Davie wins 14-13.

“Their safety just made one heck of a play. One heck of a play,” Devericks said.

After it went from 14-0 to 14-14 in 42 seconds, Page faced fourth-and-10 at Davie’s 34 with time running out. Baker caught a screen pass and Isaac stopped him two yards short with 12 seconds left, the clutch tackle preventing a field-goal opportunity but also causing Isaac to leave the game with an injury.

“Mo Mo answered the call every time,” Devericks said. “We’ve told him he’s got to be willing to come up and make the tackle, and he made some big tackles.”

Davie got the ball first in overtime, and on first down Adrian Cranfill picked up 5 yards to the Page 5. Two incompletions later – Hall looked for Little both times, and both passes were oh so close to being something incredibly exciting – the freshman kicker trotted out for a 22-yard try. Moure’s bid was blocked by Corry White.

“I’m pretty sure they overloaded and they have some pretty big, tall guys,” Devericks said. “I thought it was a good snap (by sophomore Grant Copeland), a good hold (by Summers) and a good kick. We got good foot on it, but a big paw got on it. I’m pretty sure if they wouldn’t have gotten a piece of it, it was going through.”

Then Page took care of business quickly, scoring on first down. Paige, who had rushed for 16 yards on 15 tries through regulation, managed to find 10 yards over left tackle to deal the excruciating defeat.

“We had two pretty good opportunities in overtime to get a score, and then their athlete (Paige) made a play,” Devericks said. “They had a lot of momentum after the blocked field goal. It was a couple tackles.”