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To The Very Last Play

William Blount holds offs Heritage in high school game for the ages
Governor senior Devin Fair enjoyed a triumphant return to the backfield on Friday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

William Blount receiver Joel Graham comes up with a tough catch.

William Blount’s Joel Graham comes up with a tough catch.

Sometimes it’s all there in the score.

Sometimes, it’s not.

Will Hodgson’s 34-yard field goal with 1:01 remaining produced the winning points for William Blount in a 50-48 epic Friday night at Mike White Field.

What makes this one different, one of the best high school games ever played in Blount County, is the very last play.

Heritage quarterback Dustin Richardson hit the target with his final pass. Hunter Terry made the catch, in front of the William Blount bench. There was a fumble. Racing up behind Terry, Zach Amburn snatched the pigskin from the turf and continued on.

On the last play of the game, with the horn sounding, Heritage was still coming.

Joel Graham played to the last play, too.

The Governors swarmed Amburn, quickly. Graham, a few yards upfield, raised his arms in victory, a game that had asked everything from both teams, several times, surely over.

“Amburn picked it up and two or three of our guys got him,” Graham said. “I put my hands up like we’d won, and I saw him spin out.”

With one more tackle, on the very last play of the game, Graham recovered to bring Amburn to the ground.

Now, it was over.

“I just got on my knees and took my helmet off,” Graham said. “The guys came running over and said, ‘You did it!’”

Friday’s 98 points set a record for the most ever scored in the 35-year history of the series. Time and again each team was asked to answer, and right from the very start.

Fair hangs on beneath a swarm of Mountaineers.

Fair hangs on beneath a swarm of Mountaineers.

Riley Hill took a terrific hit when he jumped and hung onto a 15-yard Richardson pass for a 7-0 Heritage lead on the game’s fourth possession.

The first three possessions?

William Blount’s Tony Mejia intercepted Richardson on the first one, after the ball slipped through the hands of a Mountaineer receiver.

Tough break for Heritage.

The Governors punted after three plays on the ensuing series. The Mountaineers fumbled the catch. William Blount took the ball at the Heritage 31.

Six plays later, William Blount fumbled the ball into the end zone, Heritage recovering.

Tough break for the Governors.

There’d soon be another.

Heritage's Riley Hill comes down with the touchdown catch as William Blount's Reed Daniels and ? defend. Daniels was injured on the play.

Heritage’s Riley Hill comes down with the touchdown catch as William Blount’s Reed Daniels (15) defends. Daniels was injured and lost for the game on the play.

Richardson’s touchdown toss to Hill seemed to settle the Mountaineers. William Blount lost its starting quarterback on the play when senior Reed Daniels, then on defense, sustained what appeared a concussion.

The thing that makes any sporting event truly memorable is performances from players you might not, at least initially, expect.

Austin Myrick and Devin Fair sure fit that bill for William Blount.

Taking over at quarterback, Myrick got the Governors back in the fight with 14-play, 80-yard touchdown march to draw even. Thought more the runner of William Blount’s two quarterbacks, Myrick finished an impressive 15-of-22 passing for 172 yards, with touchdown passes to Graham and Isaiah Hannah of 22 and 19 yards, respectively.

Both scoring tosses were perfect throws.

Fair crashed in from the 1 to tie the score a 7-all with a minute to play in the opening quarter, and, boy, did he go on to put on a show.

The Governor senior suffered a broken hand in the jamboree last month, limiting the running back/defensive end to defense through William Blount’s first three games.

The cast came off during the bye week last Friday. “Superman,” as a Governor teammate dubbed Fair afterward, rushed for 208 yards and four of William Blount’s seven touchdowns in turning back the Mountaineers, scoring on runs of 1, 53, 7 and 1 yards.

“I was just ready to be back at running back,” Fair said. “We came into the game looking to rep three backs in and out. That was the plan all week. We were fired up and ready to go.”

Junior Chase Nuchols produced the seventh Governor touchdown, his 1-yard run putting William Blount out front, 28-21, at the half.

William Blount threatened to blow it open on a couple of occasions in the second half, twice leading by two touchdowns. Each time, Heritage rallied.

Richardson added touchdown passes to a Terry, 47 yards, and Devin Harris, 41 yards, to go with the initial delivery to Hill. Harris returned a Governor punt 53 yards for a score. Fullback Orlando Bledsoe scored on runs of 2 and 3 yards.

Mountaineer quarterback Dustin Richardson tucks the ball away on the keeper.

Mountaineer quarterback Dustin Richardson tucks the ball away on the keeper.

Heritage finished the game on the wrong end of a 4:2 turnover ratio, and still the Mountaineers sent the game the very last play to be decided. Then there’s the element that really made this one special: the streak.

Friday marked William Blount’s 18th consecutive victory in the series, but there’s an inherent danger in looking at things that way.

The 2014 Governors are only responsible for this season. The other 17 games belong to those teams. The Mountaineers out there hadn’t loss 17 in a row, either.

Every year, we hold both schools accountable for all the teams who’ve come before. Crazy.

Throughout, bad breaks and penalties hit both teams. William Blount caught what proved the game’s final break when a high snap sailed beyond the reach of Heritage punter Kyle Broome, the Governors covering Broome to take possession at the Mountaineer 38-yard line.

Hodgson, whose older brother, Ryan, holds the school record for the longest field goal at 50 yards, said he knew his number might soon be called.

“I just went to the net and started working on my kicks,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Just don’t mess up. Just get it in there.’ Austin caught (the snap) and held it down. I don’t even remember kicking it.”

Governor coach Justin Ridge said he had no reservations putting the game on Hodgson’s shoulders, a blocked extra point earlier in the half withstanding.

Orlando Bledsoe holds onto the ball as he fights for yards.

Orlando Bledsoe holds onto the ball as he fights for yards.

“Will’s solid,” Ridge said. “It wasn’t his fault on the extra point. We had too many guys on the field. We knew Will could make it. We just didn’t want to leave all that time on the clock.”

Hodgson placed his game-winner down the middle, with room to spare. Ryan might not want to get too comfortable. Coming when it did, Hodgson’s kick left the Mountaineers with a minute to win it.

Heritage (2-2) exhausted every last second in the attempt. William Blount (1-3) won the way the best of big games are won – with one last stand.

“That was no doubt the biggest game I’ve ever played in,” Graham said. “We proved ourselves and played to the last play.”

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