Cyclones keep the energy going, head to third round of the VHSL 4A playoffs

 

 

 

Junior D'Ago Hunter pulls toward the end zone to score the winning touchdown for the Cyclones Friday evening on home turf at Cyclone Stadium. Photo by Ian Chini
Junior D’Ago Hunter pulls toward the end zone to score the winning touchdown for the Cyclones Friday evening on home turf at Cyclone Stadium.
Photo by Ian Chini

It was third down with a long three yards to the first down marker when the Eastern View Cyclones walked up to the line of scrimmage. Halfway into the fourth quarter Chancellor was holding on to a 24-21 lead. The Chancellor Chargers were becoming more and more desperate for a stop.

The Cyclones powered by a 48-yard kickoff return by junior D’Ago Hunter and a power running game sparked by sophomore running back Trey Holmes were undaunted as they marched down the field.

In the Cyclones backfield Holmes knew that the football was going to be in his hands. Stopping Holmes had been a tough task for the Chargers in the second half of last Friday night’s Group 4A Virginia High School League second round playoff game. Holmes carried the football for 107 yards and touchdown in the second half—in the first half, it had been teammate Justin Pollard’s task to run against a stingy Chargers defense.

Holmes took the handoff from senior quarterback Eddie Russell and garnered the first down to give Eastern View a time-eating drive and a path to two passes that would lead to a 28-24 final.

In the fourth quarter Russell orchestrated what would be the game-winning drive. Russell stood tall in the pocket long enough to hit junior wide receiver Zach Thomas for a key 30 yard gain on a second key third down.

The patience that Hatfield referred to was exemplified by the Cyclones final go-ahead touchdown a minute later, a 9-yard touchdown on a screen from Russell to junior playmaker D’Ago Hunter with 4:05 left to play. Hunter made two defenders miss and carried one more into the end zone.

“They called my number and I knew it was time to make a play—-I hadn’t scored all game. I had to be strong. I had faith that my teammates would make the right blocks,” said Hunter. “In that moment I also thought about a little girl going through cancer treatments. I thought about her fight. She inspired us to keep fighting. We won this game for her—we knew that it was going to be a battle. When you play a good team like Chancellor twice and win that really says something about our team.”

Holmes echoed the need for patience and the inspiration of a little girl.

“I had to be patient. Justin did a great job in the first half and those were tough yards. In the second half I wanted to get the ball in my hands. My line opened up some holes and I just kept my legs driving,” said Holmes. “I guess I learned that toughness from my dad. We gave it 100 percent and our thoughts were about that little girl.”

The Cyclones secret weapon cited by coaches and players is a little girl battling cancer. After the game’s final whistle and the frenzied cheers in the locker room every Eastern View player lined up to give a her a hug.

“Just look at the way they are lining up to hug this brave little girl,” said Hatfield with a large measure of pride. “They wanted to win this game for her and you can see just how much it meant to the team to do this for her.”

Eastern View will advance to a third round playoff game against Lafayette this Saturday, Nov. 26.

Heading into last Friday’s playoff game Eastern View’s coaches and players expected a tough game that would undoubtedly come down to a final possession. It certainly lived up to expectations.

The Eastern View defense held the lead in the final minutes and the game ended on a desperate scramble from the Chargers quarterback.

In game three of the season the Cyclones and Chargers had squared off in a thrilling overtime game. The Cyclones earned a 38-31 victory that built character as the season progressed. In the first game, the keys were big plays and endurance.

On Friday, the key word was patience, according to Eastern View head coach Greg Hatfield.

“Chancellor is a great team and we knew this was going to be a heavyweight fight. We knew we had to keep fighting and we knew that this game wasn’t going to be won in the first, second or third … it was going to come down to the last quarter and more likely the last play,” said Hatfield following the game. “It was a total team effort, a gutsy effort from a team that plays for one another—- they don’t have any quit in them.”

As Hatfield reflected on the game in the afterglow of victory he commented on the timeliness of his playmakers and the patience it took to stick with a ground game that eventually wore down the Chargers. He also credited his offensive line and the resilience of his defense.

“Chancellor tried to limit our air game so we had to be patient with our play calling,” said Hatfield. “Trey is a great change of pace running back. I’m thrilled with how our entire team played. They are special group of young men. I’m excited to advance with this team.”

The Cyclones (12-0) will travel to Wanner Stadium Saturday to face an undefeated Lafayette, of Williamsburg (11-0) at 2 p.m. in the third round of the VHSL 4A playoffs.

Marshall Conner is a freelance writer with the Culpeper Times. He may be reached at keelpiescot@gmail.com