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Comets fall on Homecoming night

South Boston News
The Comets fell to Magna Vista Friday during Homecoming 34-28. Halifax County High School was up at halftime 21-19. (David Conner II photo) / September 28, 2012

Magna Vista outlasted a gritty Halifax County High School varsity football squad, 34-28, on Friday night, spoiling Homecoming. But there is evidence of measureable progress for this football program.

HCHS is 2-4 after the non-district portion of the schedule, with four Western Valley district games remaining after this week’s open date.

Had Alonzo Bennett stayed healthy all season, and if the Comets had gotten a couple of breaks, this HCHS team could have easily been 4-2 at this point.

The Comets showed genuine courage for Homecoming, playing a talented opponent.

HCHS had a real shot to win, leading 28-27, with four minutes left.

The Comets left some points on the field and made some mistakes, but the Warriors (4-2) knew they were fortunate to escape with this win, sealing the late game with a crisp rally.

The Warriors did a good job handling the end game situation.

Halifax faltered at the end, absorbing a bitter defeat. Magna Vista got the game-winning score on a four-yard rushing score from quarterback Calin Jamison with 1:53 remaining.

The Comets played hard, but some mistakes and special teams blunders hurt Halifax. The Comets also had some tough injury situations, which hampered their ability to contain Magna Vista.

Comet running back Alonzo Bennett delivered another valiant effort for Halifax. He had 31 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Comet quarterback Tyler Stephens had ten carries, for a negative 14 yards.

Stephens went seven of 12 passing for 157 yards. Halifax’s Tyler Dunn had five catches for 48 yards and Bennett had one catch for 34 yards.

Ultimately, Magna Vista quarterback Jamison proved the difference maker. Jamison had 28 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Jamison was nine of 14 passing for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Jai’quan Hairston had three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown for the Warriors. The versatile Brent Hankins had one short touchdown catch, along with another touchdown on a kickoff return.

HCHS stunned Magna Vista early. The Warriors were sixth last week in the Roanoke Timesland prep poll.

The Comets started on their 25, and delivered a blow immediately. Stephens found wideout J.J. Crews got open beyond most of a packed-in Warrior defense, and the safety missed a key tackle.

Just like that, Crews was gone, scoring on a 75-yard pass play. Lacks missed the kick, but HCHS led 6-0, with 11:38 remaining.

But the lead evaporated on the Comets’ first kickoff.

Brent Hankins got a seam behind his blocking wall, and bolted outside for a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Magna Vista could not convert on the PAT, and the game was tied, 6-6, with 11:25 remaining in the first period.

The Warriors have four returns for touchdowns on the kickoffs.

HCHS started at its 24, and showed plenty of resolve to get back on top.

Bennett, showing the positive impact of his off-season weight training, broke through a couple of tackles and sprinted right up field on a 66-yard dash for the second Comet touchdown.

The two-point option was denied, but HCHS led, 12-6, with 10:14 left in the first period.

Magna Vista got backed up on its next possession, and then had the first of several adventures on special teams with its punting unit. The Comets forced a safety on a misplayed punt attempt, and HCHS led 14-6.

HCHS got solid field position on the ensuing free kick. With the ball at the Magna Vista 48, Bennett made an excellent run, finding a seam and grinding to the Warrior 30.

A holding penalty briefly slowed the Comets, and then HCHS fumbled to MVHS with 3:38 left in the first period.

Magna Vista took over on its 18, but went nowhere.

HCHS then blocked the ensuing punt, with Jaquan Claiborne catching the ball in the end zone for the touchdown. Suddenly, HCHS owned a 21-6 lead with 2:21 left in the first period.

Even after a couple of false start penalties, Lacks knocked down a 30-yard PAT for Halifax.

HCHS led 21-6 at the end of the first period, but that’s as good as it got for the Comets.

And Halifax had a momentum-sapping special teams error early in the second quarter, due to a bad snap. The ball sailed over punter Jason Dennis’ head, giving Magna Vista an appreciated gift with first and goal at the Comet four.

After two stops, Jamison found Brent Hankins on a four-yard slant, and the Warriors trailed, 21-12, with 8:33 remaining before halftime. Halifax denied the two-point conversion.

HCHS later battled downfield to get in position for a 33-yard field goal by Lacks, but the attempt was blocked with 3:59 left before the half.

Magna Vista then managed a momentum-changer, driving for a score to pull closer at the half. Magna Vista scored on a 13-yard option by Magna Vista QB with 55.8 seconds left before the half. The PAT was good, and Halifax’s lead had been cut to 21-19.

The Comets had a decent third period, but there was trouble ahead, with Tre Morgan hurt. He could not return in the second half. That proved to be a major loss for Halifax.

“Tre Morgan is to our defense what Alonzo is to our offense,” HCHS coach Mike Roark said. The Comet athlete had a bruised shin. Deonte Fountain also got hurt. “Now we’re putting people in a close game that we wouldn’t be normally be putting in.”

HC had an opportunity after a weak Magna Vista punt, but the Comets went backwards, getting nothing after a sack of Stephens on fourth down, with 8:40 left in the third. HCHS had faced third-and-12 at the Warriors’ 28, but stalled out.

Halifax also had some costly turnover mistakes and missed opportunities as a result. The Comets had one particularly costly turnover that proved unhelpful in the missed opportunity department.

HCHS still led, 21-19, at the end of the third period.

Magna Vista finally broke through, taking a 27-21 lead with 8:30 left in the contest.

Jai’Quan Hairston hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from the Warriors’ Jamison on a fly route. The Warrior wideout added the two-point conversion.

“The last couple of series, they got smart,” said Roark. “We don’t have a lot of linebackers. They put our defensive ends in space, and their athletes are better than our defensive ends. They came at us on the option.

“We had to stop the quarterback. We couldn’t stop the quarterback (Jamison),” said Roark.

The Comets had one more burst, after starting at their 34. Bennett, rugging tough all night, capped the drive by plowing to paydirt inside the two.

Lacks hit the PAT, and the Comets led, 28-27, for the last time with four minutes remaining in the game.

HCHS then lost the lead in just over two minutes.

Magna Vista got a strong kickoff return, and then HCHS suffered a major penalty. Magna Vista got to start the game-winning drive at the Comet 37 The final, game-winning blow came with 1:53 left, when Jamison went four yards to score. The Warriors added the PAT and Magna Vista led, 34-28. HCHS got a good return to its 43 on the final possession. After an incomplete pass, Bennett was pushed out of bounds at the Magna Vista 48.

After an incomplete pass, the Comets stalled out, as Magna Vista took over on downs with 1:29 remaining.

The Warriors ran out the clock, and HCHS had another disappointing loss to the Warriors.

Halifax hurt its cause with some ill-advised penalties. HCHS also had to rely on some relatively untested players on defense, due to some injuries. But Roark also saw a major positive. Halifax battled fiercely, but Roark said, “We’ve got to win the wars now.” The Comets “busted their butt tonight. ... I looked at all the game film from last year. I didn’t see a game they played this hard and this physical last year. We lined up in jumbo and pounded them. That’s huge, that’s Franklin County football. We don’t have that reputation.”

The Comets get a week off before the start of WVD play.

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