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Comets rally, fall in end

South Boston News
Comet quarterback Jacob Garrett goes in for the Comets' first touchdown on the night Friday against Glass. The Comets rallied, but fell short in the end, losing their home opener 42-35. (David Conner II photo) / September 07, 2013

By Tucker McLaughlin Jr.

News & Record

Developing granite tough football character is a critical element for any team, and Halifax County High School varsity football took a major step in that direction Friday night.

The Comets fell short, losing 42-35, to E.C. Glass, but Halifax County fans should know that if the players maintain that collective level of intensity and grit each week, they can be competitive with anyone remaining on the slate.

HCHS (0-2) stays at home for the annual border rivalry game with Person County Friday night.

The Comets suffered a breakdown defensively early against Glass and never led. HCHS could not forge a tie, but these young Comets nearly battled back from a 34-14 deficit with three touchdowns in the final period against Glass (1-1).

HCHS, embarrassed last week against Jefferson Forest, had multiple chances to win in the second week of the season.

The game turned on a dramatic, 82-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Glass defensive back Tyus Brown, after HCHS squandered a chance to tie the game in the third period.

From there, the game turned into a track meet. HCHS scored three times in the final period, but could not keep pace.

Comet head coach Mike Roark said, “We battled through, had onside kicks, three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. We played a heck of a ballgame.”

Turnovers again proved to be a real problem, with six fumbles overall.

HCHS lost three fumbles, and recovered three. HCHS had no picks, a sign of improvement.

HCHS had an opportunity to quit, or at least stop playing hard. The Comets instead pushed Glass, a playoff team a year ago, very hard. It wasn’t really over until the final kick recovery by Glass late in the final period.

Glass coach Ben Martin was not pleased with the Hilltoppers’ defensive effort in the final period.

“Defensively, we’re not very happy with that, and special teams’ wise. ... We were clicking offensively. We were definitely happy, offensively,” said Martin.

Martin said the offense did well all night, and the Hilltoppers were happy to get out of South Boston, following two late first downs to run down the clock

Glass struck very early, as Aaron Deane took a pitch on the Hilltoppers’ triple option and scampered outside, going 60 yards for the first score of the night. Glass led, 7-0, with 11:15 remaining in the first period.

HCHS stalled, but the Comets rebuffed a fake punt attempt by Glass, taking over on the Comet 44. Again, the Comets failed to get traction.

A holding penalty against Glass helped squelch the next possession by the visitors.

HCHS started on its 20, and had to punt again. But the Comet defense created a turnover, as Glass fumbled and HCHS took over on the Hilltopper 40 yard line with 18.5 seconds left in the first period.

This time, HCHS found some traction, until the turnover bug struck.

Brandon fired to the Glass 15-yard line. On the next play, Garrett was stripped of the ball at the one-yard line, with 9:42 left before halftime.

It was the first of a series of near-misses for the Comets.

HCHS forced a second Hilltopper fumble on the next Glass possession, taking over at the visitors’ 20-yard line. But two plays later, Halifax had trouble on the exchange and Glass regained possession with 7:03 left before the half.

Glass then put together its best sustained drive of the night, after starting at the Comet 10. The drive ended with a two-yard scoring burst by Morgan, and Glass extended its lead to 14-0 with 3:39 remaining before the half.

But here’s where that Comet character showed.

Rather than indulge in self-pity, the Comets dusted themselves off and mounted a scoring drive. Richardson helped with a terrific kickoff return to the 42. Brandon burst inside to claw into Glass territory. Kyle Lacks hauled in a key pass to nail a first down and keep the drive going. Brandon showed strong running ability to get HCHS close.

Then, on fourth and goal at the three, Garrett plowed through a hole in the middle, bringing Halifax within 14-7, following Lacks’ PAT. 11.5 seconds remained in the first half.

The third quarter delivered the most pivotal turnaround in this very unpredictable affair.

HCHS had possession first, and the Comets cranked up the passing game.

Garrett connected with Rymel Wyndsor for a reception to the 46. Brandon soon battled to the Glass 39.

Eventually, Brandon broke through for an apparent 14-yard score that would have set up a tie, but HCHS was flagged for a major penalty.

On the next play, Glass got an 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown, the sequence that fundamentally changed the contest.

“We always talk about our defense being aggressive. We want to score on defense,” said Martin, noting Brown’s big play.

Glass led, 20-7, with 5:21 left in the third period. HCHS thwarted the PAT attempt.

But even with this deflating development, the Comets still played scrappy football.

Markyee Thomas returned the ensuing kick to the 31 of Halifax. Truman Brown made a key play, picking up a loose ball and romping to the Glass 40. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Glass boosted the Comet drive.

Finally, Brandon snagged a touchdown pass from Garrett, scoring from the nine. Lacks added the PAT, and HCHS trailed, 20-14, with 2:53 left in the third period.

The Comets started the final period down by six points. HCHS never caught up, even after scoring three touchdowns in the final period.

Glass completed a strong drive, elevating its lead to 26-14 with 11:40 left in the contest. Glass added the two-point conversion and led, 28-14. The Hilltoppers cracked paydirt on the following possession, as Morgan connected with Tyqion Stokes for a 40-yard scoring pass. Stokes caught the pass at about the 12, confounding a group of Comet defenders, and then sprinted to the goal line.

With 9:41 remaining, HCHS trailed, 34-14. The PAT kick was blocked, and Glass had been assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, assessed on the kickoff. Other than those developments, all seemed bleak for the Comets.

Brandon returned a Glass squib kick to the Glass 45. HCHS showed offensive balance, and Brandon later slammed to the Glass 12. Wyndsor made a fine grab outside the Glass two.

Moments later, Garrett plowed over the goal line, scoring from one yard out. HCHS trailed, 34-21, with 5:08 left.

Everyone knew an onside kick was coming, and the Comets still managed to recover the ball. HCHS got a good bounce, and Malik Clark recovered the ball.

HCHS got a first down thanks to a Glass offsides penalty, and the Comets showed plenty of determination. Brandon scored from four yards out and HCHS trailed, 34-27, with 3:41 left in the game. Lacks added the PAT. Roark, ever the gambler, elected to go for another onside kick, rather than try to pin Glass deep.

Glass recovered, and then Stokes bolted 53 yards for a touchdown with 2:56 left. Stokes cut across the grain of the Comet defense and made a terrific play.

But the Comets added more drama to the ending. On their ensuing drive, Garrett found Richardson open in space, resulting in an 87-yard screen play that resulted in a Comet score. HCHS trailed, 42-35, after the Lacks’ PAT with 2:21 left.

But Glass recovered another squib kick, ultimately running the clock out on HCHS.

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