Bulldogs drop finale, still in playoffsPublished 12:01am Saturday, November 9, 2013
By Matthew Hatfield
The King’s Fork Bulldogs traveled to Chesapeake for their 2013 regular season finale against a Western Branch Bruins team that came in with a 8-1 overall record and leading the Hampton Roads area in rushing at 329.7 rushing yards per game.
For one half of football, King’s Fork was primed to notch a marquee win going into the playoffs as they led by two at the half. A pair of turnovers and getting stopped on fourth down kept them beating the powerful Bruins, who rallied for a 41-28 victory over their visitors from Suffolk. The loss dropped King’s Fork to 7-3 overall on the season, meaning they will open up the first round of the postseason on the road.
“We had a great week of practice, the kids were fired up for this and we wanted to play well so that we would take some momentum going into the playoffs. We really wanted to secure home-field for a playoff game and knew if we won we did,” remarked King’s Fork football coach Joe Jones.
While Western Branch would strike first blood, King’s Fork answered with a decisive five-play, 70-yard drive that lasted only 1:57. The scoring series was capped by a 14-yard run from sophomore tailback Deshaun Wethington, who ended the night with 102 yards rushing on 16 attempts to give him a school-record 1,510 yards for the regular season.
Western Branch would go back in front, 13-7 with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter, but Marquell Hart was able to block the extra point attempt. That helped King’s Fork in taking the lead, which they were able to do with 7:39 left in the second quarter when quarterback Uriah Adams completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Jaquon Diggs.
On the play before the touchdown, Wethington moved the chains on fourth-and-1 with a key seven-yard run. Diggs had been sidelined in previous weeks due to injury.
After Western Branch went ahead 19-14 with 2:29 left until half-time, it took only 19 seconds for King’s Fork to re-gain the lead. On a clear night with hardly a cloud in the sky, the Bulldogs received a bolt of lightning from junior Trelen Cox, whose 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was exactly the burst King’s Fork needed. The PAT was good to give them a 21-19 advantage going into intermission.
An errant pitch on an option play early in the third quarter resulted in a King’s Fork turnover, and Western Branch capitalized with a touchdown to go up 26-21. King’s Fork would be stopped on fourth-and-3 at the Western Branch 32-yard line, and early in the fourth quarter the Bruins extended the margin to 12 points.
King’s Fork wouldn’t go away and turned to a trick play with Wethington completing a 64-yard touchdown pass to Duke Santora on a halfback pass to trim the deficit to 33-28 with 7:11 remaining. However, Western Branch’s running game couldn’t be stopped, as they would convert two third downs and a fourth-and-goal to score another touchdown on a night where they piled up 444 rushing yards.
“I thought we played tough. They grinded it away and we wanted to make them drive to score because they had nine fumbles last week. We’re hoping the more times they snap the ball, the more opportunities there are for a turnover,” Jones commented. “They did what they had to do, and even though we had a couple gloomy moments there, we kept fighting back.”
Wethington was held to 19 yards in the second half on seven carries. Adams finished with 58 yards on 14 attempts. Santora made 10 tackles. Hart, Ty’Quan Weston and Tre’onte Beale finished with nine tackles apiece.
Though unofficial, early projections indicate that King’s Fork will open up the 4A-South playoffs as the No. 9 seed at No. 8 seed Tabb in the opening round next week. The Bulldogs, who lost a heartbreaker in their playoff debut to Lakeland last year 16-15, will try to advance in the postseason for the first time in school history.
“We’re going to take the next two days off, heal up a little bit, get a good practice in Monday and concentrate on whoever we’re facing in the playoffs,” said Jones.
“Whatever happens, we try to play tough, physical football. We’re not the biggest team in the world, but we play tough so that we are battle-tested. We just have to use this as momentum and say at some point we’re going to break that door down.”