A great end to a tough season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 16, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Who would have thought that Hurricane Isabel could have a great effect on Suffolk schools? Who could have imagined that losing power and transportation throughout South Hampton Roads could be a blessing in disguise?

Just before the squall hit in mid-November, Lakeland was gearing up to play Norview, while Nansemond River was set to battle Churchland. But the storm cancelled high school sporting events throughout the area for over a week, forcing the regular season to be extended.

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In the interim, it was a difficult year for the Suffolk public schools. Lakeland went winless in the Southeastern District, and River had little more success, taking home just two wins.

Had the hurricane not hit, the city’s seniors would have ended their high school football careers with horrible tastes in their mouths and memories in their mind. Last week, NRHS was mauled by Indian River, while Lakeland fell hard to Oscar Smith. Friday’s makeup games, however, gave them another chance for redemption and a way to go out as winners.

They made the most of it; Lakeland edged host Norview 12-6 in overtime, while NRHS had its way with Churchland, 17-7. The 30 seniors on the two teams can now look back at a season that ended on a high note.

For a while, it appeared that the Cavaliers were headed to yet another heartbreaker. Four minutes into the game, Anthony Diggs scooped up an Anthony Stewart fumble and returned it 20 yards to the Lakeland 12. Two plays later, Qutrell Payton ran around the left end untouched for a six-yard score.

Dajuan Everett returned the ensuing kickoff 23 yards to the Lakeland 38, but fumbled on first down, and the Pilots recovered. They drove down to the Lakeland 20, and a personal foul penalty gave them first and goal on the 10. Payton made it to the five, but the Cavaliers sacked Dwayne Williams on third down, and Norview missed a field goal as the quarter ended.

The second quarter was uneventful, with each team managing just one first down. Chase Nelson stole two fumbles from Norview, but the Cavalier offense was sputtering, ending the half with just 19 yards. With just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, however, they finally started flying past the Pilots.

Starting from the Lakeland 20, Everett rumbled five yards, and Tyrone Parker made eight more. Everett carried to the 46, and a personal foul penalty gave the Cavaliers a first down on the Norview 40.

Nelson took a reverse toward the left sideline, but he was met by a sea of blue shirts. Screeching to a stop, the running back barreled back across the field, and bolted all the way to the Pilot 11.

Tyrone and his brother Mike could manage just four yards on the next three plays. An illegal motion penalty got them to the three, and Mike headed through the right side of the line, where several Pilots were there to meet him.

Mike lurched through the mass, but he fell near the one. As he was going down, the ball popped loose, and someone inadvertently kicked it into the endzone. Nelson was there, falling on the ball seconds ahead of three Pilots to tie the score.

&uot;I looked back to see if Mike had gotten in, and I saw the ball pop out,&uot; he said. &uot;No one noticed it by their feet, and I just landed on it.&uot; The Pilots blocked the extra point,

leaving the score knotted at six.

Lakeland quickly regained possession, and Tyrone carried on six consecutive plays, helping the Cavaliers to the Norview 23 with 5:20 left. But another field goal try went errant, and the score remained tied. Neither team could grab a point, and the game headed to an extra period. In keeping with high school rules, each team starts a series at the opposing 10-yard-line, with four downs to score a touchdown. Reggie Banks ended Norview’s attempts quickly, stripping the ball from Payton on first down. Lakeland took over, and Tyrone burned through the Pilot defense for the score on second down.

&uot;I don’t even know what to say!&uot; he said. &uot;All I saw was the endzone. I knew I’d score if I got the ball. This gets us tuned up for next season.&uot;

It was also a satisfying end for rookie coach Greg Rountree. &uot;These guys played tough and hard all year,&uot; he said. &uot;All night, we were one block away from a touchdown, and then we finally got it.&uot;