Bulldogs fall to Lake Taylor

Published 10:43 pm Friday, November 28, 2014

King’s Fork High School’s Bulldogs huddle up before Friday night’s semifinals game against top-ranked Lake Taylor High School. The Bulldogs held their own briefly before falling 35-6. (Matthew Hatfield photo)

King’s Fork High School’s Bulldogs huddle up before Friday night’s semifinals game against top-ranked Lake Taylor High School. The Bulldogs held their own briefly before falling 35-6. (Matthew Hatfield photo)

By Matthew Hatfield


For three quarters, the King’s Fork Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with the undefeated Lake Taylor. But unfortunately for King’s Fork, the fourth quarter showed why Lake Taylor is ranked No. 1 in the state and the favorite to capture the Group 4A State Championship.

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Lake Taylor broke open a close game by outscoring the Bulldogs 21-0 in the final stanza to prevail 35-6 in Friday night’s regional semifinals at Powhatan Field in Norfolk.

“It was 14-6, we were right in the thick of it, but just couldn’t quite get anything going offensively in the second half. And we got beat by a really good football team,” said King’s Fork head football coach Joe Jones, who praised the play of Titans senior quarterback Shiheem Johnson afterwards.

Johnson accounted for 242 total yards and three touchdowns engineering the Lake Taylor twin-veer option offense that piled up 497 yards as a team, the most on King’s Fork’s defense this year.

“I told No. 15 for them that’s as good an option quarterback as I’ve played against. He can run it and did a great job. He was the guy who scared me the most, and we had a hard time handling him.”

King’s Fork junior running back Deshaun Wethington, the Ironclad Conference Offensive Player of the Year, sat out with a hamstring injury. His absence, combined with facing an aggressive defensive front of Lake Taylor, seemed to handcuff the running game for the Bulldogs much of the night.

“It absolutely hurt, but that’s all a part of the game. That’s no excuse,” remarked Jones. “You’ll never hear me use injuries as an excuse. He would’ve loved to have been out there. Having someone like him out there can make a difference, but we had our opportunities.”

Scoring first, Lake Taylor put together an eight-play, 99-yard drive that lasted only 3:13. The demoralizing play of the drive for the Bulldogs defense came on third-and-9 from their own 2-yard line, where the Titans broke off a 23-yard run. However, the extra point would be blocked by King’s Fork’s Duke Santora to keep the score at 6-0. That would be the margin at the end of the first quarter.

On the second play of the second quarter, an 82-yard drive for Lake Taylor came up empty when Bulldogs senior defensive back TyQuan Weston deflected a pass on fourth-and-4. The Titans would push their advantage to 14-0 when they got the ball back on their next offensive possession.

Down two touchdowns, King’s Fork dug out of trouble and received an enormous boost when quarterback Ryan Kluck found receiver Camryn Little for a 65-yard touchdown pass on third-and-15. Despite the extra point being blocked, the rare aerial strike allowed King’s Fork to trim Lake Taylor’s lead to 14-6 with 6:11 left in the second quarter.

The King’s Fork defense would get a critical takeaway right before half-time to keep their deficit from swelling when Keyon Ross jarred the ball loose from a Lake Taylor running back and it was recovered by linebacker Josh Bush at the Bulldogs’ 2-yard line.

It would be a defensive battle in the third quarter with neither team scoring. King’s Fork stopped a pair of drives by Lake Taylor, one coming on a fumble recovery from safety Akil Freeman. After racking up 122 yards in the first half, the Bulldogs finished with minus-9 yards in the second half on 15 plays, failing to move the chains on any third down.

King’s Fork closes out the season at 10-3 overall, improving on their victory total for a third straight year under Jones. Wethington will be back for his senior year on offense, while the defense is slated to return seven starters in 2015.

“As far as playoffs go, we got to this same point last year and didn’t go further this year, but we did win 10 games and that’s the most in school history. Each year, we want to raise the bar and these seniors did,” Jones said.

“This one is going to bite and hurt. We’ve got a good group coming back. We’ll take December off, get back in the weight room come January and get ready to get after it next year.”