Amazing Drive: 16 plays, 80 yards

Published 10:54 am Thursday, August 30, 2018

Last year Davie’s football team only played two down-to-the-wire games, and both were gut-punch losses – 20-14 in overtime to Page and 20-17 to West Forsyth. In the 2018 opener, it blew a 21-6 lead and lost 35-28 at Page.

When North Davidson took its first lead of the night, 14-13, with only 6:48 remaining here Friday, you could feel it happening again. With Davie starting at its own 20, you could feel the pressure descending on the underdog War Eagles. You could imagine North escaping by one because of a missed extra point, and you weren’t alone.

But through heart and resolve, the War Eagles survived 21-14 with a drive that evoked memories of 2003.

On Halloween night 2003, Davie hosted the same Black Knights in the regular-season finale. The stakes were high. The War Eagles were in a tough spot in the fourth quarter, trailing 20-16. They pulled off a drive for the ages to win 23-20, tying West Forsyth for first in the Central Piedmont Conference and denying North a share of the title.

In 2003, a 54-yard punt pinned Davie at its 14 with 8:30 to play.   Justin Brown converted a third-and-1 with a 2-yard run. Andrew McClannon’s 14-yard pass to Brown, who was not a noted pass-catcher, converted a third-and-7. Before a fourth-and-5 play from the North 12, Davie called timeout. Davie was a run, run, run team, and offensive tackle Zach Jakob told offensive coordinator Barry Whitlock he wanted to run power to his side. Whitlock thought for a few seconds and then nodded his approval.

Cooter Arnold barrelled between the tackles. Everyone held their breath as the chain crew came out to measure. Davie got the first down by a whisker. On third-and-goal from the 1, Arnold’s fourth straight carry ended up in the end zone to culminate a 19-play, 86-yard, eight-minute drive. The headline in the Enterprise read: “Dream Drive.”

Just like 15 years earlier, against the same Black Knights, again on Davie’s home field, the War Eagles faced a steep uphill climb with North holding the 14-13 lead. What transpired was reminiscent of the methodical drive from 2003, except this time Davie leaned on sophomore quarterback Nate Hampton’s arm.

And get this: the drive came to fruition even though the first two plays yielded zero yards. It was third-and-10 from the Davie 20 when North defensive tackle Blake Stephens had the back of Hampton’s jersey with a closed fist. Hampton broke loose at the Davie 10. Stephens grabbed Hampton’s jersey again at the 14, and again Hampton spun away. (He’s a sophomore, but he looks like a senior physically at 6-5, 225.) Hampton spotted Josh Robinson along the right sideline, the completion good for 15 yards.

“I felt them tugging on me and I just kept running,” Hampton said. “Josh made a play on the ball and made a nice grab.”

“He’s a big guy and he’s able to do that,” coach Tim Devericks said. “I don’t want him to have to do that, but it’s always tough on a defense when the quarterback breaks contain. He did a great job of keeping his eyes downfield on the scramble. That’s what he’s been working on.”

Still, Davie faced more turbulence. A first-down pass was dropped. A second-down pass was knocked out of Jack Reynolds’ hands. If the buzzards weren’t quite circling, they were thinking about the proper time.

“That DL and their linebackers were just as good (as Page’s),” Hampton said. “I’ve just got to sit in there and trust my preparations just like coach Bum (Todd Bumgarner) always says.”

“That whole drive he did a really good job keeping his composure,” said linebacker Peyton Hampton, who watched little brother’s heroics from the sideline. “I think he was a little nervous  in his first varsity game (at Page). He bounced back this week and had a heck of a game.”

On third-and-10, Hampton eluded Stephens and found his safety valve, Robinson, who made a 7-yard snag as he tumbled to the turf. It was fourth-and-3 from the Davie 42. That’s when Evan Little’s night turned from nondescript to difference-maker. His first catch – on a slant route – yielded 9 yards and moved the sticks.

“My coaches prepare me, watching film before practice and all that, and I knew what they were planning on doing,” Hampton said. “I saw Evan come across the middle. I knew I could trust him.”

Indeed, Hampton has an arsenal of weapons to distribute the ball to. Robinson and Ben Crenshaw had six catches each. Reynolds had five and Tate Carney four. Little had just one, but what a big one it was.

“As a group, our receivers have to understand you never know when your number is going to be called,” Devericks said. “Be ready for the ball. Evan ran a great route, we got great protection up front and Nate made a big completion.”

It was third down again at the North 46. Davie needed 7 yards. Have you heard that Chris Reynolds, a redshirt freshman quarterback at Charlotte who destroyed Davie passing records in 2015-16, has a little brother named Jack, also known as “Jackie Moon?” Jack ran a slant, reached up and made a 14-yard reception as he split two defenders. He might be diminutive (5-9, 155), but he’s as tough as a fast-food steak.

“He’s one of the best out there,” Hampton said. “He might be undersized and people underestimate him. But he goes out there and destroys them every week. Tonight he showed he’s one of the best receivers in the CPC.”

It was third-and-10 yet again from the North 32. Hampton rolled right and threw on the move, hitting the fabulous frosh (Carney) for 15 yards.

“Nate saw on film there were some little things that he needed to correct and he did,” Devericks said. “That’s a huge step. I’ve told you all along – he’s got the tools. He’s just got to relax and play with them.”

On third-and-4 from the 11, Davie decided the slant had worked long enough and it was time for a wrinkle. Reynolds reeled in the game-winning touchdown on a fade to the back right corner of the end zone.

“They weren’t expecting it,” Hampton said. “I saw Jack had one-on-one out there. I just tossed it up to him and he made the grab. It was plain and simple, just Jack making a play.”

“They noticed we were running the slants, so all we did was fake the slant and I went to the corner,” Reynolds said. “Nate just threw a perfect ball.

“I’ll tell you what, that dude has improved since last year compared to no one I know. I mean he’s worked all summer and gone to all these camps. He’s just a hard worker; I love him.”

“That was the money ball,” Peyton Hampton said. “I was so happy to see that happen.”

Talk about maximum efficiency, seven of Reynolds’ 16 catches in two seasons have resulted in six. He scored 20 of 21 points Friday, counting the two-point conversion that bumped it from 19-14 to 21-14.

“Jack’s a heady football player,” Devericks said. “He’s a great competitor. And what people don’t understand, he’s got a lot of shiftiness to him. He can beat people with his moves and then separate at the end.”

The offense had questions that needed to be answered, and it came up with a winning drive of 16 plays, 80 yards, 4:48 off the clock. The War Eagles may not be a legitimate CPC contender in ‘18, but they’re going to be a pain in the butt for opponents. And just think: the offense is only scratching the surface with zero senior starters at skill positions. The only senior who saw offensive time Friday was lineman Spencer Hoke.

“I am super proud of them for being able to execute in that situation,” Devericks said. “They did a fantastic job with a lot of pressure on them. It’s huge for their confidence. It’s huge to see they are capable of finishing. I think they know they’re capable of it, but they needed to see the fruits of their labor.”