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Streak This!

Bledsoe runs for 262 yards as Mountaineers end 20-game skid

Heritage junior Orlando Bledsoe churns for a big gain Friday night at Seymour. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Seymour – Heritage took a page from the old Smith Barney television commercial in snapping a 20-game losing streak Friday night: They earned it.

Kahlil Abuhania shows the emotion of his streak-busting touchdown run in the postgame huddle.

A Seymour punt rolled dead at the Mountaineer 1-yard line with 8:27 remaining. Fifteen plays and 99 yards later, sophomore Kahlil Abuhania capped the march with a spinning, twisting, 26-yard dash to the end zone and an eventual, 41-38 Heritage win at Householder Field.

“I told them when we got in the huddle, ‘We’re going to keep our composure; we can’t let the adrenaline get to us,’” Mountaineer quarterback R.T. Byrd said.

Heritage coach Tim Hammontree said he sent the offense to the field with a simple set of instructions.

“‘Block your assignment, and go to the end of the whistle, and we’ll be OK,’” he said. “‘Don’t give up on the technique you’ve been taught.’”

It just got better and better with the Mountaineers (1-2) then forced to hang on in a wacky, final two minutes.

Led by a big night defensively from linebackers Chris Lim and Ben Sternberg and end Kennan Brackins, Heritage stuffed the Eagles in six plays on the ensuing series, the Mountaineers regaining possession with 1:03 remaining.

Dustin Richardson cuts back behind a Nate Prince block.

Seymour burned its two remaining timeouts on first and second down. A delay of game penalty, five seconds returned to the scoreboard clock and a Heritage fake punt on fourth down gave the Eagles one last shot with nine seconds left, the ball at the Mountaineer 26.

After a fruitless go at the end zone, J.J. Jerman’s 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right as the horn sounded.

A big dose of the credit for Friday’s breakthrough win is due big Mountaineers fullback Orlando Bledsoe. The thickly muscled junior rushed for a career-best 262 yards and an eye-popping 72-touchdown dash on 23 carries. It marked the second consecutive week Bledsoe has rushed for 100-plus yards.

The emerging talent finished with 157 yards and three scores in a loss at Bearden last week.

“Our offense really worked together,” Bledsoe said. “They stuck together, worked hard and pushed.”

Shining equaling bright for Heritage was senior halfback Brandon Cutler, whose third-and-11 sprint rescued the game-winning drive, setting up the Abuhania touchdown run the following play.

“The guys did a great job blocking downfield,” Cutler said. “I just ran my heart out.”

Brandon Cutler skips into the end zone for a Heritage touchdown.

“When converted that, it gave us a lot of energy,” Bledsoe said.

As heart stopping as the finish proved for the Mountaineers, the start could hardly have been worse.

A fumble on the game’s first play handed the Eagles the ball at the Heritage 12-yard line. Eagles quarterback Nick Sexton kept around right end from the 3 four plays later for a 7-0 Seymour lead.

A short punt to close the following Mountaineer series returned the pigskin to the Eagles at the Heritage 40. Tanner Sise sprinted to the left corner on second down to run 35 yards for a 14-0 Seymour lead.

Bledsoe brought Heritage back in a flash.

The powerful back burst off right tackle on first down and sprinted for the middle of the field for a 52-yard gain. Cutler showed off some nifty footing with a 6-yard scoring run around right end four plays later to cut it to 14-6 Seymour.

Sise made it 21-6 Eagles on the ensuing series. Cutler capped an 80-yard march with a 34-yard burst to bring Heritage back within 21-14 after Bledsoe’s 2-point conversion run with seconds to play in the FIRST quarter.

Quarterback R.T. Byrd rolls to throw.

It was a real, honest to goodness shootout the rest of the way to the half, where the Mountaineers and Eagles played to a 35-35 tie. Sexton connected with Braxton Dockery from 16 yards for one Seymour score, with Dockery taking a second toss 75 yards to the house.

Heritage hit back with the 72-yard Bledsoe scorcher down the Seymour sideline. Lim scooped and scored from 32 yards on an Eagle fumble.

Sternberg picked off a tipped Sexton pass with four minutes to play to give the Mountaineers the ball at the Seymour 10. Sophomore back Dustin Richardson needed one play to reach the end zone for a brief, 35-28 lead.

Dockery went the distance for Seymour on the next play from scrimmage.

The Mountaineer defense limited the Seymour offense to a Jerman 32-yard field goal with nine minutes to play in the third as its only second-half scoring.

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