Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Night Scores, Tuesday Schedule...

Megan Sherman scored 12 of her 19 points at the free throw line, while Sara Puglisi added 15 as Mills Godwin won their girls basketball season opener at home with a 50-39 win over Manchester in a game heard live on RVA Sports Network.

Meanwhile, Glen Allen started their sixth varsity season in winning fashion, defeating new Conference 11 rival Lee-Davis 67-28 in Mechanicsville.


Hermitage at #1 Henrico, 7:30pm
Matoaca at Varina, 7:30pm
Manchester at Glen Allen, 7:30pm
Atlee at Douglas Freeman, 7:30pm (1st Round, Rebel Invitational)
Collegiate at J.R. Tucker, 7:30pm (1st Round, Rebel Invitational)

Hermitage at #5 Henrico, 6pm
Matoaca at #3 Highland Springs, 7:30pm
Douglas Freeman at James River, 7pm

2015 Rebel Invitational Tournament Schedule

The first week of basketball season means time for the annual Rebel Invitational sponsored by Douglas Freeman High School! The tournament gets underway Tuesday. The schedule is below, all games at Douglas Freeman unless otherwise noted:

TUESDAY 12/1: First Round Games
Game 1: St. Christopher's vs. James River, 6pm
Game 2: Atlee at Douglas Freeman, 7:30pm
Game 3: Cosby vs. Albemarle, 6pm at JR Tucker
Game 4: Collegiate at J.R. Tucker, 7:30pm

WEDNESDAY 12/2: Consolation Round
Losers of Games 1 and 2, 6pm
Losers of Games 3 and 4, 7:30pm

7th Place Game at 5pm
Semifinal #1: Winners of Games 1 and 2, 6:30pm
Semifinal #2: Winners of Games 3 and 4, 8pm

FRIDAY 12/4:
5th Place Game at 5pm
3rd Place Game at 6:30pm
Championship Game at 8pm

Saturday, November 28, 2015

CLASSIC: Springers Score In Final Seconds To End Panthers Season....

The script was much different than most fans expected, but the ending was totally what the legions of fans would see as they descended on Victor Kreiter Stadium Saturday at Highland Springs High School. The only question would be which team would score at the end to grab a berth in next week's 5A State Semfinals.

For a team that built a 35-7 lead, thanks in part to a kickoff return for a touchdown, a blocked punt resulting in a score, and a pick six, Highland Springs, having watched Hermitage spend most of the rest of the contest build their comeback to tie the game at 35-35, decided to be aggressive in the final drive, not opting to play it safe and rest in the knowledge of playing in overtime.

The Springers drove 70 yards in less than 90 seconds, pulling out all the stops, including a hook and lateral that set up the game-winning score, and Highland Springs defeated Hermitage 42-35 in an absolute classic 5A State Quarterfinal.

"I am estatic; I will not lie, the monkey is off my back," said Highland Springs head coach Loren Johnson on the RVA Sports Network Scoreboard Show live following the victory. "We've never beaten Hermitage in my tenure here, so it is definitely a welcome opportunity to just enjoy the moment right now."

It was a great of dramatic, and huge runs, but it started with Hermitage driving for Eli Odom's first of five touchdowns for a 7-0 lead, while Highland Springs' offense had trouble getting on track.

But Cincinnati commit K'Von Wallace began to make his presence known, first with a 79-yard kickoff return to immediately tie the game at 7-7. A DJ Anderson 28-yard run around right side gave the Springers the 14-7 lead after a quarter. Then, on the first play of the second quarter, a high snap gave Hermitage punter Alex Burton issues, as his kick was blocked by Chris Thaxton, scooped up, and run into the end zone for a touchdown by Davante Cain for a 21-7 lead.

Wallace then turned in defensive work, taking a tipped pass for a Pick Six for another score. Add another Anderson touchdown run, and the Springers led 35-7 midway through the second quarter. After Hermitage muffed a kickoff, the Springers recovered at the Hermitage 33, with a chance to extend the lead even more.

But this is when the Panthers built their firewall, denying the Springers the end zone, which would become a recurring theme over the next 29 minutes of play. One step at a time, one drive at a time, Hermitage began to climb the mountain.

Odom found Tye Bates on an inside slant, Bates spinning around and placing his hand on the ground to keep his knee from touching it, then getting up and racing for a 56-yard score to cut the lead to 35-13. Then, just before halftime, Odom had an open Kaelin Snead in the end zone, but it was Wallace again, this time just getting a hand on the ball to swat it away. It turned out to be a key play overall, keeping the Springers lead at 22 at the half, rather than less.

The Panthers' comeback continued in the second half, as the Springers' offense continued to be stymied, while Odom calmly moved his unit down the field. Touchdown dives, plus runs behind usual defensive tackle Suliaman Kamara, lined up as a fullback, inched Hermitage closer, then finally helping them tie the game on a touchdown run with 1:42 remaining.

Having seen their huge lead evaporate, rather than conservatively playing for overtime, Johnson went aggressive, looking to avoid the extra period, looking to finally slay the dragon.

"What I said to Juwan was, remember, we only need three," Johnson explained, bringing back memories of decisions made a year ago when the Springers tried to complete the comeback win at home in the second round over L.C. Bird, only to see it fall short. "I didn't do that last year playing L.C. Bird. I told him, take your time. The first play will be a run, based on that, I'll call the rest of them."

Anderson did run on first down from their 30 for decent yardage, then Johnson began the final chess match. Reaching the Hermitage 40 with 22 seconds left, it was time to bring out a play best known as the play that propelled the Miami Dolphins back into a 1981 AFC Divisional Playoff game against San Diego, Tony Nathan grabbing the lateral and racing for a touchdown. That game ended in overtime. Today's game would not.

"We practice it every Wednesday, every Thursday, and the hook and lateral gave us some momentum," Johnson noted.

James Jackson perfectly flipped the ball to a dashing Dashawn Young, who raced down the sideline to the Hermitage 12 with 14 seconds left. The Springers were in field goal range, but Johnson placed his "we only need three" mentality aside, and went for it all.

On the next play, rather than Greg Dortch, or Wallace, it was Carter throwing into one-on-one coverage to Jackson, who wrestled the football into his arms in the left corner of the end zone with 9.2 seconds left to set off a celebration on the Springers' sideline 25 years in the making.

"We figured we've got to do something that breaks a tendency," Johnson said. "So, going trips with Greg and K'Von together breaks a tendency. So, we did something we worked on all summer, throwing it back side to James Jackson, who doesn't get a lot of notoriety, our long snapper, short snapper, and he plays receiver for us, and he caught probably the biggest catch of his young career."

A Hail Mary attempt as the horn sounded by Odom was batted away and fell incomplete around the 15-yard line. Highland Springs stormed the field, while the heartbroken Panthers fell to the field at their individual locations, filled with disappointment, and the reality of the finality to the season.

Highland Springs will welcome Indian River, who upset previously unbeaten Hampton Friday night in the other 5A South Region Semifinal (or State Quarterfinal), next Saturday at 1pm. The winner will move on to Scott Stadium in Charlottesville December 12th to play for the 5A State Championship. In the 5A North Region, their defending champion, Tuscarora, will host Stone Bridge next weekend.

For Johnson, it's now time to focus on Indian River, trying to get one more win at home which would allow his team to make reservations to move up Interstate 64. But he will gladly tell you about his love for the individuals that make up his team, and what they mean to him.

"I get emotional, thinking about my kids and how well they played and how well they came together," Johnson exclaimed. "We had some times where we could have tanked, and got in each other's face, but our kids stayed the course, and I'm ecstatic about that. For as much as my kids go through, they fight through it daily, and I'm proud of them for that and excited for them for this opportunity."

Friday, November 27, 2015

LISTEN LIVE LINK: Hermitage at Highland Springs

CLICK HERE to listen to the rematch between the 12-0 Panthers and 11-1 Springers with a trip to the 5A State Semfinals on the line, airtime 12:45pm exclusively on RVA Sports Network!

Monday, November 23, 2015

BREAKING: Hermitage at Highland Springs Airs LIVE on RVA Sports Network!

RVA Sports Network is thrilled to announce we will providing LIVE online coverage of the 5A State Quarterfinal between 12-0 Hermitage and 11-1 Highland Springs this Saturday afternoon!

Our coverage will begin at 12:45pm, with kickoff set for 1pm, and can be heard on RVA Sports Network's YouTube Channel.

CLICK HERE to bookmark the page on your laptop, tablet or smartphone so you don't miss a minute of the action as the Springers look to avenge their lone loss of the season, while the Panthers look to advance to their third state semifinal in six years!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

PROFILE: Hermitage Defeats LC Bird

(RVA Sports Network correspondent Taylor Luck files this report)

The lights of Randolph Macon’s Day Field lit up on Friday night, as the college played host to a 5A South semifinal meeting between two very familiar opponents. For the sixth consecutive season, the Hermitage Panthers and the LC Bird Skyhawks met each other in the postseason. The reigning state champion Skyhawks came into the night having taken their previous three meetings, after dropping the first two to Hermitage in 2010 and 2011.

Hermitage controlled the pace of the game from the start. A deadly first half offense, highlighted by a 70 yard touchdown pass from Eli Odom to star wide receiver Kaelin Snead, put the Panthers up 21-0 at halftime; which would be more than enough thanks to a staunch defense that held Bird to under 200 yards of total offense on the night. The Skyhawks tried and failed again and again to get the running game going, and continually shot themselves in the foot with bad and inopportune penalties on both sides of the ball en route to their first playoff loss since the 2011 season.

Things looked good for LC Bird early, as Hermitage only managed a few plays on the opening drive of the game before an errant pass by Eli Odom was intercepted by Kier Townsend at the Bird 38 yard line. Jalen Elliott then connected with Waymond Pate to give the Skyhawks first and goal inside the Panther 10 yard line. One delay of game penalty and three plays of no gain later, and Bird’s attempt at a 37 yard field goal was blocked by Calvin Whitehead, handing Hermitage the ball at their 27. Odom found Snead for a 45 yard bomb to keep the drive alive inside the Bird 30, and a few plays later dove into the end zone on a 1 yard touchdown dive to put the Panthers up 7-0 late in the first quarter.

The Skyhawks got the ball rolling in the second quarter with a 10 yard touchdown pass from Elliott to Townsend. The ensuing extra point would be blocked by Calvin Whitehead, leaving LC Bird down 7-6. Not ten seconds later, Hermitage struck back on the first play of their next drive with a 70 yard catch and run from Odom to Snead, giving the Panthers a 14-6 lead. Bird would go three and out on their next drive, and a bad punt gave Hermitage great field position near midfield. A late hit penalty moved the Panthers inside the red zone and shortly after Odom ran for his third total score of the game, a three yard rush behind the blocking of star defensive lineman Sulaiman Kamara. Heading into halftime, Hermitage held a 21-6 lead, but would spend the second half trying to repel the expected Skyhawk comeback.

The second half was slow and with little action until late in the fourth when Bird took advantage of starting field position inside the Hermitage 42 yard line and mounted a drive resulting in a 5 yard touchdown run by Elliott. Needing a two point conversion to get within 8, the Skyhawks attempted a screen from the 2, but Elliott was hammered for a sack on the play, stopping any hopes for a comeback. Hermitage would hold on to their lead, and finally take down LC Bird, and move on to the 5A State Quarterfinals.

Eli Odom was the dominant force on the field for the Panthers. Despite an early pick, he rallied to score all three of his team’s touchdowns, completing 15 of 24 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown; and contributing 62 yards and 2 scores on the ground on 14 carries. Kaelin Snead grabbed 5 of those passes, for 156 yards, including the 70 yard touchdown reception.
Calvin Whitehead may well have won Hermitage the game with his field goal block and extra point block. His denial of those 4 crucial points kept the Bird two possessions behind in the final quarter.

Though Jalen Elliott proved effective while throwing the ball, the Skyhawks simply refused to pass. Elliott went 8 for 11 for 88 yards and a TD through the air, but the team remained one dimensional and kept running the football while behind, which proved fatal. Elliott, JB Wright, and Shedrick McCall combined for 35 rushes on the night for only 89 yards, a mere 2.5 yards per carry for the team.

Friday night was a huge win for Hermitage, who had been knocked out of the postseason by Bird each of the last three seasons. After the victory, Odom explained the team approaches each game the same no matter the opponent, and they take it one day at a time, but admitted Bird is a special challenge for the Panthers. “It’s a big feeling because we have to stay focused.” noted Odom, “They’re the team that takes us out all the time so it’s a big focus.”

Next week, Hermitage will pay a visit to Highland Springs for the 5A South title game, a rematch of a game they won two months ago, 21-20. The Panther’s defense looks stout, and ready to face the high powered Springers’ offense, who has averaged just over 42 points per game this season. Hermitage faced some severe offensive issues in the second half, only gaining 84 yards in the final two quarters; the defense may have been able to contain LC Bird, but it will likely take more than 21 points to stop Highland Springs this time around.

Friday, November 20, 2015

FOOTBALL: FINALLY, Hermitage Beats LC Bird; Highland Springs Survives Scare

Everything old is new again, we've come full circle.

The Hermitage Panthers erased three years of frustration Friday at Randolph-Macon College, jumping to a 21-6 halftime lead, then holding off three-time defending state champion L.C. Bird for a 21-12 victory to hand the Skyhawks their first postseason defeat since a 10-0 Panthers win over Bird on November 25, 2011.

Hermitage moves to 12-0, and gets a chance to, again, defeat Highland Springs on their home field. The Springers survived a huge scare from Lee-Davis, outlasting the Confederates 41-34 in the other 5A South Second Round matchup. The Springers have won eleven straight, and now try to avenge a 21-20 overtime loss at home to Hermitage back on opening night August 28th.

The winner next week will play for the 5A South Region championship on December 4th or 5th.