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Comets drained after loss, now 0-3

South Boston News / September 14, 2013

Comet fans have to be disappointed, along with the varsity football team, after an emotionally draining 21-17 loss to Person County Friday night.

HCHS is 0-3, while Person won its first game of the season and improved to 1-3.

This has been an unlucky start to the season for the Comets. HCHS lost senior Tyler Stephens, who would have contributed significantly on both sides of the ball, to a broken foot in the preseason.

Another player who could have helped, Jamal Chism, suffered a broken arm in the off-season.

And the Comets have a very young team. There are 26 juniors or sophomores on the team, and many players involved in key roles have limited varsity experience.

And it’s not like the Comets are getting blown out.

Granted, the opening loss at Jefferson Forest, now 2-1 after losing to Appomattox, was a rout.

But Mike Roark’s Comets have been competitive. Last season, in the opening 3-7 campaign, Halifax lost four games by 17 points.

Roark is now 3-10 at Halifax.

This year, the Comets have two losses by a touchdown or less.

Clearly, the loss to the Rockets was tough to watch. But give the gutsy Rockets credit.

Those fellows came hungry, and PC played inspirational football.

HCHS was undone by a series of mistakes, penalties and a lack of consistency, even as certain areas, such as fumbling problems, showed dramatic improvement.

But HCHS has an opportunity to rebound.

The Comets get a badly needed bye week. GW-Danville, which defeated E.C. Glass Friday night, comes to South Boston in two weeks.

The Comets surrendered a touchdown created by the opposing defense for the second week in a row.

Trouble struck early for the Comets as PC’s Laron Cash picked off a tipped pass and returned the ball 23 yards for touchdown in the first period.

HCHS struggled through a first half plagued by inconsistency and some costly mistakes, trailing 7-3 at the half. Comet place-kicker Kyle Lacks connected with 28 yards out with 11:51 left in the second period, and that was the only other scoring of the first half.

Then, PCHS extended its lead to 14-3 after a 25-yard rush by a very athletic Rocket quarterback, Trevon Tapp, with 9:17 left in the third.

HCHS showed resiliency, battling back and grabbing its first lead of the season. Roland Brandon, who ran hard all night, busted in for the go-ahead score from the two-yard line with 4:51 remaining. Lacks added the PAT and Halifax led, 17-14, with 4:51 remaining.

But the Rockets, playing an inspired game, delivered a game-winning push. Tapp capped the scoring, blasting in from 25 yards from three and a half minutes to play, and HCHS subsequently failed to answer with another scoring drive.

HCHS, meanwhile, is generating some consistency on offense, but not enough. And the defense could not hold serve with the game on the line Friday.

But the Comets might not be as far off the mark as some doubters might think.

Without question, HCHS took a step backwards Friday, but that’s not uncommon with high school players.

And it’s not like the season is unraveling, at least not yet. There are certainly some winnable games remaining, and the bye week will help.

HCHS has some options on offense.

Sophomore quarterback Jacob Garrett is 24-for-58 with 283 yards passing, for three touchdowns and six interceptions. There’s room for growth there, but Garrett also showed courage, especially in the loss to Glass. And the young player did engineer a come-from-behind late scoring drive to give HCHS a late lead against PC.

Brandon has performed very well, rolling up 309 yards on 59 carries, 5.2 ypg, with three touchdowns and two fumbles.

HCHS is averaging 4.5 ypg on the ground, with 536 yards overland.

Brandon also has six receptions for 41 yards, 6.8 ypc, with two touchdowns. Rymel Wyndsor has three catches for 39 yards. Truman Brown has four catches for 31. Richard Jacobs has five catches for 32 yards and Kyle Lacks, who had a terrific grab in the late going Friday, has three catches for 34 yards, 11.3 ypc.

Roark, who has generally been very successful over a long coaching career, is frustrated after the program clearly made strides in several developmental areas in the off-season. On the field, however, the Comets are winless.

HCHS had a shot to recover at the end, but a lack of execution hampered these Comets on their final drive.

“The defense did a good job in the first half, and kept it to a field goal. They (PC) found a little something and exploited it.

“We thought we’d made some changes at halftime and adjustments,” said Roark, lamenting the second half problems.

“They (PC) did a good job up front on defense. We couldn’t trap, couldn’t run counter. We’ve got to block on the perimeter,” said Roark.

Tapp performed well at the quarterback, and HCHS also had limited offensive opportunities in the first half.

The early defensive turnover for a pick-6 did not help the Comets.

Roark lamented some of the same early mistakes following that critical turnover that put HCHS is an early hole.

“We’ve got the same penalties every week. We’ve got to knock them out. We get drives going, we get pushes in the back,” said Roark.

HCHS did not fumble, but there were problems getting the ball on the perimeter, and moving inside.

HCHS also made a good drive in the third period to get on the board, but the Comets also needed a late defensive stop and could not get that.

Overall consistency is also an issue.

The players were also very disappointed after a near-miss to Glass. But these Comets have an opportunity to regroup after a deflating loss.

“We’ve got two weeks to bounce back. Might be a heck of a time to have a two-week break. We probably need it.

“They’re beat up (the players). The coaches are beat up. We weren’t expecting this (the loss) tonight,” said Roark.

Roark said on Tuesday, he plans a heart-to-heart meeting with the team, in an effort to regroup.

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