By HARRISON HAMLET
(STUART, Va.) – It was a cinematic moment. A quarterback walked towards his teammates, arms outstretched, as his coaches hugged behind him. It was a celebration of a Friday night win and a season of accomplishment.
A playoff berth was earned.
It wasn’t a moment that Patrick County football teams have been able to experience many times in recent years, but on Friday night, that Hollywood ending belonged to quarterback Will Sprowl, head coach David Morrison, and a Cougars team and coaching staff that has proven football is all about guts.
With starting tailback Dae’Shawn Penn sidelined for the remainder of the season, and his replacement Jonny Crowell out for the night after suffering a leg injury, Patrick County comfortably handled Halifax County, earning a 27-8 victory that all but sealed the Cougars’ place in the Virginia High School League playoffs.
“The kids did it. They executed what we asked them to do and they believed in each other,” Morrison said. “We’ve been telling these guys all year to take it one game at a time. Our focus has been less playoffs and more one game at a time. Once we got our guys buying into that the results come; the results of getting to 5-5 and getting into the playoffs come from that.”
Sprowl accounted for all four of the Patrick County touchdowns on the night, scoring three times on the ground. But it was his touchdown pass to Chris Drewery that was arguably the most important moment of the game.
Halifax County scored a safety and a touchdown in quick succession in the third quarter and took an 8-6 lead, but no heads dropped on the Patrick County sideline. Instead, Sprowl fired a 75-yard dart to Drewery on the second play of the ensuing drive, giving the Cougars a lead they would only expand on for the remainder of the game.
“We didn’t get down on each other,” Sprowl said of the third quarter. “We kept our heads high and thought about needing to get this done to make the playoffs. We fought for each other…We knew we would come out on top.”
“That was an opportunity for us to learn to do something a different way.” Morrison said. “We saw a puzzle and we found a way to fix it.”
Big plays came fast and furious for Patrick County all night. Crowell had a big run before his injury, Carson Merriman dominated the Comets between the 20s, Sam Edwards made tackle after tackle, Christian Fain recovered a muffed punt, Wyatt Argo had a shoelace interception and Drewery shut down Halifax County’s star receiver Traivius Chappell as the Comets looked to mount a comeback.
It was a true team effort, just as the season has been, according to Morrison.
“There’s been games we didn’t play well in and games where the score didn’t indicate how well we really performed. Against a great opponent tonight, we came out and executed the game-plan almost perfectly. I told the guys, ‘this is what it looks like when you do it right.’” Morrison said. “It’s been a building process. Now, you say ‘you guys are ready. It’s time to show the world who you really are.’ Given that opportunity, these guys have really seized the moment.”
The loss dropped Halifax County to 6-3. The Comets will host Tunstall (1-8) to close out their regular season.
Patrick County finishes the regular season with a record of 5-5, and will get a week off before likely hitting the road for a playoff contest with potential opponents ranging from Dan River to Appomattox and others in between.
“We don’t care who we play, we’ll go anywhere. We’re just happy to have this opportunity,” Morrison said. “All you want in this life is a chance to show who you are. With the schedule we play, we’ll go wherever we have to go to have that opportunity in the playoffs.”
Morrison’s players will be ready for the challenge too.
“It feels amazing to have a chance to play in the playoffs,” Sprowl said. “It hasn’t been done around here in a long time and it just feels great to be a part of this.”
Patrick County High School 27, Halifax County High School 8
HCHS – 0 0 8 0 – 8
PCHS – 0 6 7 14 – 27
9:32 – PCHS – Will Sprowl 5 rush (PAT miss)
6:05 – HCHS – Team Safety
4:07 – HCHS – William Davis 25 pass from Thomas Lee (PAT blocked)
3:06 – PCHS – Chris Drewery 75 pass from Will Sprowl
11:56 – PCHS – Will Sprowl 5 rush (Martin Morse PAT good)
3:53 – PCHS – Will Sprowl 6 rush (Martin Morse PAT good)
PATRICK COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL
Will Sprowl 24 for 71, 3TD, fumble; Carson Merriman 18 for 61; Jonny Crowell 7 for 11; Wyatt Argo 1 for -3. Total: 50 for 140, 3TD, fumble.
Will Sprowl 1-4 for 75, TD.
Chris Drewery 1 for 75, TD.
HALIFAX COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL
Thomas Lee 3 for 40, fumble; William Davis 7 for 33; Christian Mack 7 for 31; Mekhjay Boyd 1 for 9; Zyon Wilson 5 for 4. Total: 23 for 121, fumble.
Thomas Lee 1-10 for 25, TD, INT.
William Davis 1 for 25, TD.